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

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora