Killer Robots (seriously!)

I’ve talked quite a bit about the idea that advanced technology such as robots and A.I. could start performing jobs that humans perform. Factory worker, bartender, software designer, etc. … these jobs could all eventually be performed by a smiley faced metal bot or computer program. Here’s one job I hadn’t considered until now: soldier.

The robot soldier is of course the classic sci-fi conceit — a mechanized warrior who kills with hyper efficiency, unburdened with the limitations of emotions. But while we have long mused about such a possibility with a certain detachment, the days of the killer robot may be coming upon us. In fact, there is in Britain a “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.” Their web site states:

Over the past decade, the expanded use of unmanned armed vehicles has dramatically changed warfare, bringing new humanitarian and legal challenges. Now rapid advances in technology are resulting in efforts to develop fully autonomous weapons. These robotic weapons would be able to choose and fire on targets on their own, without any human intervention. The Problem describes numerous ethical, legal, moral, policy, technical and other concerns with fully autonomous weapons.

Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield is an unacceptable application of technology. Human control of any combat robot is essential to ensuring both humanitarian protection and effective legal control. A comprehensive, pre-emptive prohibition on fully autonomous weapons is urgently needed. The Solution outlines how a ban could be achieved through an international treaty, as well as through national laws and other measures.

Clearly insurance against robot attack is needed now more than ever!

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