Quantcast
Connect with us

Activists launch campaign against ‘autonomous weapons’: Killer robots must be stopped

Published

on

Autonomous weapons’, which could be ready within a decade, pose grave risk to international law, claim activists

A new global campaign to persuade nations to ban “killer robots” before they reach the production stage is to be launched in the UK by a group of academics, pressure groups and Nobel peace prize laureates.

Robot warfare and autonomous weapons, the next step from unmanned drones, are already being worked on by scientists and will be available within the decade, said Dr Noel Sharkey, a leading robotics and artificial intelligence expert and professor at Sheffield University. He believes that development of the weapons is taking place in an effectively unregulated environment, with little attention being paid to moral implications and international law.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Stop the Killer Robots campaign will be launched in April at the House of Commons and includes many of the groups that successfully campaigned to have international action taken against cluster bombs and landmines. They hope to get a similar global treaty against autonomous weapons.

“These things are not science fiction; they are well into development,” said Sharkey. “The research wing of the Pentagon in the US is working on the X47B [unmanned plane] which has supersonic twists and turns with a G-force that no human being could manage, a craft which would take autonomous armed combat anywhere in the planet.

“In America they are already training more drone pilots than real aircraft pilots, looking for young men who are very good at computer games. They are looking at swarms of robots, with perhaps one person watching what they do.”

Sharkey insists he is not anti-war but deeply concerned about how quickly science is moving ahead of the presumptions underlying the Geneva convention and the international laws of war.

ADVERTISEMENT

“There are a lot of people very excited about this technology, in the US, at BAE Systems, in China, Israel and Russia, very excited at what is set to become a multibillion-dollar industry. This is going to be big, big money. But actually there is no transparency, no legal process. The laws of war allow for rights of surrender, for prisoner of war rights, for a human face to take judgments on collateral damage. Humans are thinking, sentient beings. If a robot goes wrong, who is accountable? Certainly not the robot.”

He disputes the justification that deploying robot soldiers would potentially save lives of real soldiers. “Autonomous robotic weapons won’t get tired, they won’t seek revenge if their colleague is killed, but neither will my washing machine. No one on your side might get killed, but what effect will you be having on the other side, not just in lives but in attitudes and anger?

“The public is not being invited to have a view on the morals of all of this. We won’t hear about it until China has sold theirs to Iran. That’s why we are forming this campaign to look at a pre-emptive ban.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The idea is that it’s a machine that will find a target, decide if it is the right target and then kill it. No human involvement. Article 36 in the Geneva Convention says that any new weapon has to take into account whether it can distinguish and discriminate between combatant and civilian, but the problem here is that an autonomous robot is not a weapon until you clip on the gun.”

At present, Sharkey says, there is no mechanism in a robot’s “mind” to distinguish between a child holding up a sweet and an adult pointing a gun. “We are struggling to get them to distinguish between a human being and a car. We have already seen utter incompetence in the use of drones, operators making a lot of mistakes and not being properly supervised.”

Last November the international campaign group Human Rights Watch produced a 50-page report, Losing Humanity: the Case Against Killer Robots, outlining concerns about fully autonomous weapons.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far,” said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch. “Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimising civilian deaths and injuries.”

US political activist Jody Williams, who won a Nobel peace prize for her work at the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, is expected to join Sharkey at the launch at the House of Commons. Williams said she was confident that a pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons could be achieved in the same way as the international embargo on anti-personnel landmines. “I know we can do the same thing with killer robots. I know we can stop them before they hit the battlefield,” said Williams, who chairs the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

“Killer robots loom over our future if we do not take action to ban them now,” she said. “The six Nobel peace laureates involved in the Nobel Women’s Initiative fully support the call for an international treaty to ban fully autonomous weaponised robots.”

ADVERTISEMENT

© Guardian News and Media 2013


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Millennials are moving to Trump-backing states — and the GOP should be terrified: columnist

Published

on

Millennial voters are substantively more progressive than older generations of voters, but their political power has been diluted by the fact that many of them have been concentrated in cities in deep-blue states.

However, The Atlantic's Derek Thompson argues that this is about to change because more millennials are leaving the big blue-state cities to move out to metro areas in key states such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas.

"The five fastest-growing metros of the past few years -- Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, and Orlando, Florida -- are in states won by Trump," he writes. "The other metro areas with a population of at least 1 million that grew by at least 1.5 percent last year were Las Vegas; Austin, Texas; Orlando, Florida; Raleigh, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; San Antonio; Tampa, Florida; and Nashville, Tennessee. All of those metros are in red or purple states."

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

‘The man who sold America’: Mitch McConnell’s mountain of political sins catalogued in devastating new profile

Published

on

Mitch McConnell finally has the power he's longed for since he was a 22-year-old intern for Sen. John Sherman, but his ruthless march to become Senate majority leader has seen him abandon almost all of his stated principles -- and earned him a lot of enemies.

The Kentucky Republican has been unpopular in his home state for years, but this summer has seen his approval rating plunge to 18 percent after MSNBC's Joe Scarborough tarred and feathered him with the nickname "Moscow Mitch," and he's increasingly seen as "the man who sold America," reported Rolling Stone.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Sarah Sanders rages on Fox News that the ‘out-of-control’ media is ‘making stuff up’ about Trump

Published

on

In her new gig as a Fox News contributor, former White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders complained to host Sean Hannity that the "out-of-control" media makes "stuff up" about Donald Trump because they hate him for winning in 2016.

Sanders, who once told reporters that "countless" FBI agents had lost confidence in James Comey only to later tell investigators from special counsel Robert Mueller's office that she made it up, complained to the Fox host about the press being untrustworthy.

Continue Reading
 
 
Help Raw Story Uncover Injustice. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image