News / Science & Technology

Demand Grows for Global Ban on 'Killer Robots'

Demand Grows for Global Ban on 'Killer Robots'i
X
May 24, 2013 5:11 PM
The United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions has joined calls for a moratorium on so-called ‘killer robots’ - automated weapons systems which critics fear may one day operate independently from human commanders. It may sound like something from a science-fiction movie - but campaigners say the threat is real and the robots already exist. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Henry Ridgwell
United Nations’ special rapporteur on executions has joined calls for a moratorium on so-called ‘killer robots’ - automated weapons systems which critics fear may one day operate independently from human commanders. It may sound like something from a sci-fi movie - but campaigners say the threat is real and the robots already exist.

A human-sized robot joined campaigners outside the British Parliament last month to highlight what they say are the imminent dangers of automated weapons systems - or "killer robots."

Among them was American Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her role in the campaign to ban landmines.

There has to be discussion about technology that will totally transform war. And when my country wants to call it a bloodless battlefield I feel enraged," said Williams.

Unmanned combat air vehicles, or drones, have been a part of warfare for several years - and form a key part of the United States’ battle against militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The X-47B drone, currently undergoing flight testing, is one of the world’s most advanced, able to take off from an aircraft carrier. Many countries operate drone programs.

Noel Sharkey, a Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, and Chairman of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, says drones mark the final step in the industrial revolution of war.

“Now the big question is, ‘who is looking at the targets, who is deciding when to fire it?’ We’re only concerned with the kill function being autonomous. So we need proper human supervision to select the targets and engage them," said Sharkey.

Sharkey says currently all drones operate under human supervision.

But supporters argue that technology like drones can eliminate human fallacy from the battlefield.

Professor Christopher Coker of the London School of Economics is author of Warrior Geeks: How 21st Century Technology is Changing the Way We Fight and Think about War.

“One argument is they have greater oversight than anyone’s ever had before. They are actually watching the target for hours at a time sometimes, days at a time, so there’s a certain behavioral profile and on that basis they take the decision on whether to strike or not. But that gives you no greater insight into the character that you’re actually dealing with, and, of course, there is collateral damage as well," said Coker.

The soundtrack to a promotional video from South Korean industrial giant Samsung Techwin for its SGR-A1 sentry robot, which aims to replace border or security guards with intelligent surveillance cameras.

It is armed with a 5.5 mm machine gun - but still controlled by human operators. The campaign group Human Rights Watch says it fears the human element could one day easily be removed.

Again, Professor of Robotics Noel Sharkey.

“The thing about an autonomous robot is you couldn’t hold it accountable. It’s not a moral agent. So who do you hold accountable? Well the problem is that you’re probably going to talk about having the commander being accountable. But that really wouldn’t be fair because there are so many things that can go wrong within a robot," he said.

Campaigners say there is huge interest from industrial corporations in developing so-called killer robots.

The U.N.’s special rapporteur on executions has joined calls for a moratorium on their deployment.

The issue is due to be discussed at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on May 29th.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs