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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More