News / Science & Technology

Human Rights Watch Campaigns Against 'Killer Robots'

Human Rights Watch Campaigns Against 'Killer Robots'i
|| 0:00:00
X
November 23, 2012 11:24 PM
Technology is moving fast when it comes to "autonomous systems", intelligent machines that perform tasks with little or no human guidance. In modern warfare, drones and other unmanned vehicles are playing an increasing role, with militaries embracing a technology that they say makes war safer and more effective. But human rights campaigners fear what might be to come -- fully autonomous weapons that could select and engage targets without human intervention -- and they want a new global treaty to stop that from happening. Selah Hennessy reports for VOA from London.

Human Rights Watch Campaigns Against 'Killer Robots'

Selah Hennessy
Technology is moving fast when it comes to "autonomous systems": intelligent machines that perform tasks with little or no human guidance.  In modern warfare, drones and other unmanned vehicles are playing an increasing role, with militaries embracing a technology that they say makes war safer and more effective. But human rights campaigners fear what might be to come -- fully autonomous weapons that could select and engage targets without human intervention -- and they want a new global treaty to stop that from happening.

Military systems that can operate unmanned are a growing component of modern warfare.  

In Israel, the country's missile defense system, the Iron Dome, autonomously senses the threat of an incoming rocket and sends a warning to an operator, who then gives the command to fire a missile.

During the recent cross-border violence between Israel and Gaza, Israeli officials said the defense system had an 80 to 90 percent success rate.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones, have also played a growing military role, especially in U.S. campaigns.

They provide surveillance, identify targets, and can deliver lethal force -- but only if an operator gives the go ahead.

But David Mepham, the United Kingdom director of Human Rights Watch, says within decades technological advances could write the human operator out of the equation.

"Drones are not fully autonomous weapons.  They involve human intervention in terms of their targeting and the decision to strike, but that has been an increasing trend in the way Western militaries, in particular, have been going in recent years.  This will be several technological steps beyond that. It will be a weapons system that takes the human beings out of the loop," Mepham said.

Human Rights Watch has jointly published a report with the Harvard Law School's International Rights Clinic arguing that within 30 years militaries could be armed with autonomous "killer robots."

They say such weapons would be inconsistent with international humanitarian law and would increase the risk to civilians during armed conflict.

In order to prevent a move in that direction, the campaigners are pushing for a global deal that would prevent the use of such weapons, similar to agreements banning the use of landmines and cluster bombs.

"One of the things that holds us back from barbarism in contexts of war is this distinction between combatants and civilians. And we are worried about a robotic weapon of the future not being able to tell the difference between a child holding out an ice cream and someone holding a weapon," Mepham:said.

The U.S. and other militaries have said they have no plans to remove human supervision over the decision to use lethal force, despite advances in technology.

But Britain-based independent security analyst Hugo Rosemont says there should be a public discussion around the future use of autonomous technology, and not only with regard to its military potential.

"There also needs to be a public discussion around some of the wider applications, such as in the use of disaster management and humanitarian relief. These technologies can be deployed and have been in those circumstances, and that should be part of the wider discussion in what we think of as autonomy," Rosemont said.

He says robots could well do the world plenty of good in the years to come.  France sent remote controlled robots to Japan to help contain the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year -- just one job better left to machines.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
November 25, 2012 11:36 AM
"We are worried about a robotic weapon of the future not being
able to tell the difference between a child holding out an ice
cream and someone holding a weapon," said David Mepham, the
United Kingdom director of Human Rights Watch.

Most of today's autonomous machines make decisions based on human
knowledge. If robots cannot tell the difference, neither can
humans. Stop making restrictions on technology and put your
efforts on reducing conflicts between humans please.


by: musawi melake from: -
November 24, 2012 9:50 AM
Protetes like these are simply intended to divert the attention of the genuine People concerned, for the so called Human-Rights-Watch is another means of the West, especially the US, to futher the Foreign policy. They sit idle while atrocities are being comitted and People die, when the perpetrators are the Western Powers or their Jewish coolies and then cry foul. Real change will only come when cheep open-source Technologies become available that Challenge, if not stop alltogether, these kinds of sumary-executions. If these kinds of acts are done by some third-world state or outfit With whatever available at their disposal, then the West shouts, but in reality the street executions are no different to these drone killings. Ony the Technology being used.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid