Yesterday, a United Nations expert called for a halt and moratorium on developing "lethal autonomous robotics," or, in layman's terms, "killer robots."
His argument: once killer robots take part in war, there will be no going back. Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told the Human Rights Council that now is the time to regulate and stop killer robots, arguing that "decisions over life and death in armed conflict may require compassion and intuition." He also urged the council to form a panel that would study whether international laws in place today adequately address the use of killer robots.
Thing is, killer robots already exist. And they're about the least compassionate machines we could imagine.
I'm talking about land mines, those notorious explosives that explode when walked over. Land mines are programmed to kill when certain conditions are met. That is the same principle guiding a killer robot.
But there are some key differences: A killer robot might make a decision based on algorithms and inputs, internal coding and pre-programmed combat behaviors. It might be programmed to understand the laws of war, and it might use surveillance technologies to make distinctions between unarmed civilians and armed combatants. The same principles that power facial recognition software could apply to robots targeting their weapons at other weapons, so they fire to disable guns and not to kill people.
Land mines, on the other hand, fail to distinguish between civilians and soldiers, between soldiers of different nations, and between animals or large children or small soldiers. Land-mine triggers cannot be easily shut off and are designed for durability not intelligence. At their worst, killer robots could be as deadly and as indiscriminate as landmines. Chances are, though, they will be much more sophisticated.
The task before lawmakers is not to ban a technology out of fear but to adapt the law to the technology once it exists. Making legislative decisions about new technology is tricky business. In the United States, electronic communication is governed by a law passed well before email was a regular fixture of life. Provisions that made sense to congressmen in 1986 trying to imagine email led to great weaknesses in privacy and personal security, all because the technology wasn't understood when the law was written. The stakes are much lower in governing electronic communications than in authorizing robots to kill.
Killer robots are coming. Efforts to halt their introduction or ban their development are not only likely to fail, but they'll drown out legitimate concerns about the safest way to implement the technology with Luddite fear-mongering.
I quite agree.
I might add that when you have someone 5000 miles away flying by joystick/screen, and having been trained as much possible to "do the job", it very doubtful there is much "companion" there.
Not to mention firing a cruise missile or bombing from 60,000 feet.
Isn't it a bit disingenuous to call land mines killer robots?
By that logic bear / animal traps should be considered killer robots.
Instead of going on a rant about land mines, why not talk about the killer robots that actual exist. Such as the Predator or the Talon. Granted they are not autonomous and must be given the order to kill, however they are still killer robots.
Don't get me wrong your comments about land mines are 100% valid. Especially the fact that they are autonomous killers, that never really crossed my mind. I just wasn't expecting land mines when the title said "Ignores the Ones That Already Exist" I thought you'd be going more in depth about a different class of killer robots, and talk about more than one "robot". I guess I was just looking for more content is my only complaint of this article.
Like I always said, battles are best fought with swords and with the leaders, leading the fight.
Now that would be a U.N. resolution with teeth!
Sorry, guys, the picture above IS indeed a fictional plane called the F/A-37 Talon, but it's not a drone, there's a pilot sitting in that seat (a female fighter pilot named Lt. Kara Wade, played by Jessica Biel). There are several pictures floating around the web of this movie-prop mock-up, and in all the others you can clearly see the cockpit.
I've stopped reading most of PopSci's articles because of things like this; Autonomous, Robot, Computer, and more outside of this theme are all mixed together into meaning the same thing.
Land mines are in no way autonomous nor are they robots. They may be complex and what you say is mostly valid but they are not 'programmed to kill', if you want to stretch the definition of the word programmed you can say that they are programmed to explode after pressure has been applied. They're simple switches, they are 'simple machines' yet nothing more. It would be nice to see a detailed article on the science of landmines and the science behind efforts to disarm them around the world, some of the new computer or robotic techniques to clean them up.
A land mine has a pressure switch which causes and explosive result.
A toilet has a lever with a flushing result. I suppose if I follow the logic, the toilet must be a robot,
rofl.... alrighty then, .... snort.
Really, if our leaders has to suffer a sword fight
and fight their own battles, I believe there a lot
less battles and wars, hmmm!
The real issue with war robots is that
1. in conventional war, you need soliders, a large quantity of people that, to a certant point, need to approve and fight for the cause.
2. in robot warfare, you don't need any kind of approval for the cause of the war, sense of justice, or a large number of people.
In other words, a very small number of people, with enough funds can, single handedly, can engage in great conflicts in the world.
- This would open a whole new level of terrorism (few vs the many). one man wars.
- This would give a great opportunity to dictators, as a way to opress their population whitout the need of a consensus by the army, (machines vs civilians). Today you cannot just order your army to wipe out a significant part of civilian population, whiles with robots you can.
- This makes funds, money as the key factor to warfare. A simple industrial facility could produce the killer robots army to fight an entire war at the a command of a single person.
What are you waiting destroyed the world and is over.
sorry DotsLines, but the movie had a robot plane based on the manned plane biel flew in the movie, cheers
The article's picture evokes huge robots. I saw on TV a swarm of robots slightly smaller than a golf ball. They remain inert while solar-charging then goes alive and uses basic face recognition to identify human eyes. It then quickly burrows 4 inches in through the eye then quickly comes back out in case the human falls face down and traps it. It repeatedly kills until it runs out of power and has to solar-charge again.
The bow and arrow was once thought as the cowards weapon.
If one man must kill another man and face death himself, he needs to feel the point of a sword and they eyes of his opponent as one of them must certainly will die.
Politicians are already willing to throw our men's lives away in war after war for the sake of their own agendas. Would they not hesitate less with robots?
In a practical military application, robots don't have much leg up on G.I. Joe when it comes to combat. They are more expensive to deploy, are more vulnerable to electronic countermeasures, they are just as dependent upon logistics, and they still require humans to fix them. Worse, robots cannot be charged with war crimes. Don't get me wrong, robots are already doing wonders in support roles but I think that is where it should stay.
As General Patton said, war is the ultimate test of a man and the ultimate competition between men. Machines know their programming but only men know war... unless those machines are Cylons. Then we're screwed.
Making "killer robots" illegal, because all countries obey laws right, look at the USA...anyway that is as much help as making it illegal to be a criminal. See how that's working...
The world needs more laws to restrict the behavior of law abiding citizens, because that stops the criminals.
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The UN is rightly afraid that combat droids will give
1st world nations the ability to defeat 2nd and 3rd
world armies without taking human casualties, which is
the only thing holding the 1st world nations back.
The UN is even more afraid that assassination droids
will make it practical to kill any 2nd or 3rd world
ruler who poses a threat to 1st world interests.
Killer robots, as in machines that can be programmed to kill humans; have been around for a long time. We have far more than are discussed here, and have had for decades now. The UN knows about these killer systems. So do all the other major militaries of the world. It's dishonest of the UN to try to come off now like these things are new instead of something they've known about all along and have been just fine with up till now.
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