Lethal Battlefield Robots: Sci-Fi or The Future of War?

Mother Jones

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“We are not talking about things that will look like an army of Terminators,” Steve Goose, a spokesman for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, tells me. “Stealth bombers and armored vehicles—not Terminators.” Goose, the director of Human Rights Watch’s arms division, has been working with activists and other experts to demand an international ban on robotic military weapons capable of eliminating targets without the aid of human interaction or intervention, i.e., killer robots.

The bluntly titled campaign, which at sounds like something from a Michael Bay flick or Austin Powers, involves nine organizations, including the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. The campaign is spearheading a preemptive push against efforts to develop and potentially deploy fully autonomous killer robots—a form of hi-tech weaponry that doesn’t actually exist yet.

“I’m not against autonomous robots—my vacuum is an autonomous robot,” says Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield and chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (and a fixture on British television). “We are simply calling for a prohibition on the kill function on such robots. A robot doesn’t have moral agency, and can’t be held accountable for crimes. There’s no way to punish a robot.”

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Lethal Battlefield Robots: Sci-Fi or The Future of War?

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