Autonomous weapons a real concern says ‘Campaign to Stop Killer Robots’

Killer robots and their ability to think have been a staple of science fiction for decades now. Discussions around HAL9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Skynet from the Terminator franchise are often on everybody’s lips when joking about the subject. These science fiction stories may be closer to reality than you think. On 11 April, the subject has once again been brought up at the United Nations discussion in Geneva, Switzerland, by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

According to a press release sent to Memeburn, one of the aims of these talks is to start negotiating a pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons, and discuss other factors relating to them. Many “high contracting parties,” UN agencies, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, are expected to attend the meeting.

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Civil society experts, such as Professor Toby Walsh of the University of South Wales, and Dr. Heather Roff of Arizona State University will also present at the summit on a range of topics relating to the main subject.

Launched in 2013, and backed by over 60 non-governmental organisations, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots stands against permitting machines to take human life in combat, or with regards to policing, border control, or a range of other circumstances.

“Any decision to use force should be made with great care and respect to protect the value of human life and dignity, which only humans are capable of doing,” says co-founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and Nobel Peace Laureate of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Ms. Jody Williams. She continues, “Countries should embrace the principle of meaningful human control over targeting and kill decisions and agree to swiftly begin negotiations on a preemptive ban on killer robots.”

The press release says the price reduction in sensors as well as advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), which would be possible to create unmanned weapons that would attack individuals without human intervention. There is a concern that humans will fade out of the decision-making loop in war. The likes of the United States, China, Israel, and South Korea are moving towards autonomous combat.

According to Profesor Noel Sharkey of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, a co-founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots: “Several countries and manufacturers affirm that they have ‘no plans’ to develop lethal autonomous weapons systems. Such pledges are welcome, but insufficient as they’re not a permanent solution to what’s coming if states fail to take action,”

“Policy commitments not to develop or use these weapons systems may crumble as soon as opponents acquire them. The risks are too high to ignore so the only logical way to avoid that is to legislate the ban,” continues Sharkey.

Since 2013, there have been nine countries calling for the ban on autonomous weapons, all of which are Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, Holy See, Pakistan, State of Palestine.

“If states will not confirm that there needs to be meaningful human control over weapons then they are deliberately leaving the door open for systems that can kill people without that control,” says co-founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, Richard Moyes.


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