Stranger than fiction: Ivy League university calls for ban on killer robots

Posted at 8:21 AM, Nov 20, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-20 08:21:45-05

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTVR) – Governments the world over should take steps to preemptively ban fully autonomous weapons because of the danger they pose to civilians in armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Monday.

The 50-page report, “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots,” outlines concerns about these fully autonomous weapons, which would inherently lack human qualities that provide legal and non-legal checks on the killing of civilians. In addition, the obstacles to holding anyone accountable for harm caused by the weapons would weaken the law’s power to deter future violations.

The report is the first major publication about fully autonomous weapons by a nongovernmental organization and is based on extensive research into the law, technology, and ethics of these proposed weapons. It calls for an international treaty that would absolutely prohibit the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons.

It is jointly published by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic.

While fully autonomous weapons do not yet exist, high-tech militaries are developing or have already deployed precursors that illustrate the push toward greater autonomy for machines on the battlefield. The United States is a leader in this technological development. Several other countries including China, Germany, Israel, South Korea, Russia, and the United Kingdom have also been involved. Many experts predict that full autonomy for weapons could be achieved in 20 to 30 years, and some think even sooner.