Ban 'Killer Robots' Before It's Too Late
By Human Rights Watch / hrw.org

(Washington, DC) – Governments should pre-emptively ban fully autonomous weapons because of the danger they pose to civilians in armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. These future weapons, sometimes called “killer robots,” would be able to choose and fire on targets without human intervention. 

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.

“Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far,” said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. “Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimizing civilian deaths and injuries.”

“Losing Humanity 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 is jointly published by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic.

Human Rights Watch and the International Human Rights Clinic called for an international treaty that would absolutely prohibit the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. They also called on individual nations to pass laws and adopt policies as important measures to prevent development, production, and use of such weapons at the domestic level.

Fully autonomous weapons do not yet exist, and major powers, including the United States, have not made a decision to deploy them. But 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.

“It is essential to stop the development of killer robots before they show up in national arsenals,” Goose said. “As countries become more invested in this technology, it will become harder to persuade them to give it up.”

Fully autonomous weapons could not meet the requirements of international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard clinic said. They would be unable to distinguish adequately between soldiers and civilians on the battlefield or apply the human judgment necessary to evaluate the proportionality of an attack – whether civilian harm outweighs military advantage.

These robots would also undermine non-legal checks on the killing of civilians. Fully autonomous weapons could not show human compassion for their victims, and autocrats could abuse them by directing them against their own people. While replacing human troops with machines could save military lives, it could also make going to war easier, which would shift the burden of armed conflict onto civilians.

Finally, the use of fully autonomous weapons would create an accountability gap. Trying to hold the commander, programmer, or manufacturer legally responsible for a robot’s actions presents significant challenges. The lack of accountability would undercut the ability to deter violations of international law and to provide victims meaningful retributive justice.


While most militaries maintain that for the immediate future humans will retain some oversight over the actions of weaponized robots, the effectiveness of that oversight is questionable, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard clinic said. Moreover, military statements have left the door open to full autonomy in the future.

“Action is needed now, before killer robots cross the line from science fiction to feasibility,” Goose said.

0.0 · 0
What's Next
Related
Load Comments
Trending Today
DISOBEDIENCE: The Courage To Break Free (2016)
41 min · 8,221 views today · Disobedience is a new film about a new phase of the climate movement: courageous action that is being taken on the front lines of the climate crisis on every continent, led by...
Corporate Media Admits Bernie Sanders Is a Strong(Er) General Election Candidate
4 min · 4,966 views today · The blackout on Bernie is starting to end.
2016 Presidential Election Reality Check
2 min · 4,793 views today · "It IS class warfare and first class is winning."
Who Are You? This Breathtaking Video Might Change Your Life
2 min · 4,006 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
Deep Anger: We need to rediscover something we lost along the way
Darren Fleet and Stefanie Krasnow · 3,657 views today · In a better world, there’d be no reason to write this. In that world, plastic bags would be outlawed, rednecks would voluntarily stop driving those obnoxious Ford F-350s and...
27 Honest Questions for Hillary Supporters
Kris Seto · 2,969 views today · To those who are supporting Hillary Clinton, I love you. And while I know that we’re technically on the same side fighting against a terrifying Republican reality, it seems...
Yes, It's Okay to Talk About Climate Change Right Now
Nicholas Ellan · 2,536 views today · With the largest evacuation in the history of the province of Alberta displacing nearly 100 000 people as large sections of Fort McMurray burn to the ground in the middle of a...
Why the Economy Should Stop Growing-And Just Grow Up
David Korten · 1,333 views today · “How do we grow the economy?” is an obsolete question. Local initiatives across the world are looking for maturity instead as they rebuild caring, place-based communities and...
What Is Addiction? - Gabor Maté
3 min · 1,303 views today · Dr. Gabor Maté talks about the root causes of addiction and how to deal with them.
Why a United Front Against Trump Is Dangerous Territory for the Left
Danny Haiphong · 1,229 views today · The "lesser of two evils" has been centered on the false dichotomy of Trump versus everyone else.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into A Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 806 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 722 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Why Men Are So Obsessed with Sex
Steve Bearman · 697 views today · Have you ever encountered a baby whose gender is unknown to you?
The Mental Disease of Late-Stage Capitalism
Joe Brewer · 577 views today · I’ve been talking with a lot of my friends recently — in private where they felt comfortable letting their guard down — about the dirty little secret no one is supposed to talk...
Leaked TTIP Documents Confirm Corporate Power Grab at Heart of EU/US Trade Deal
Andrew Butler · 505 views today · Greenpeace have leaked 248 pages of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiating texts, confirming worst fears of environmentalists and social justice...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 455 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 444 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
The 10 Revolutionary Keys to Saving Humanity and Healing the Planet
Barbara Marx Hubbard · 436 views today · The Awakening of Humanity Occasionally in the course of human events, a new worldview emerges that transforms society. It happened when Jesus’ disciples were inspired by his...
Caitlin Moran's Posthumous Advice for Her Daughter
Caitlin Moran · 390 views today · My daughter is about to turn 13 and I’ve been smoking a lot recently, and so – in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there’s a small mouse inside them, scratching to...
One Example of How the Left Has Internalized the Ideology of Their Oppressors
Tim Hjersted · 375 views today · "Ideological hegemony is the process by which the exploited come to view the world through a conceptual framework provided to them by their exploiters." - Kevin A. Carson
Load More
Like us on Facebook?