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
"Desert Goddess" Remembers Arizona's Glen Canyon
7 min · 10,887 views today · In this excerpt from the award-winning documentary DamNation, filmmakers Ben Knight and Travis Rummel interview the "desert goddess," Katie Lee. When the Glen Canyon Dam was...
This Dude Just Used Jelly Beans To Convince Me To Live My Life To The Fullest
3 min · 5,677 views today · After watching this video, I just wanted to make the most of my free time. I also wanted some candy, so we will call that a 2 for 1. - Rafael Casal
Watch a Giant Suction Tube Gobble Up The Earth In This Brilliant Video about Our Economy
7 min · 4,333 views today · Modern production is based on extraction from the planet, and modern finance is based on extraction from the many for the benefit of the very few. What would a new economy look...
I Wish for You... Jeremy Irons is a Grandfather With A Beautiful Message for His Granddaughter
5 min · 2,980 views today · 'War Horse' author Michael Morpurgo and actors Jeremy Irons and Maxine Peake have joined forces to make a powerful new 5 minute film especially for you. Please watch and...
HEIST: Who Stole the American Dream? (2012)
76 min · 1,508 views today · HEIST: Who Stole the American Dream? is stunning audiences across the globe, as it exposes the real truth behind the worldwide economic collapse, tracing its origins to a 1971...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into A Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,269 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 · 1,144 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...
Who Are You? This Breathtaking Video Might Change Your Life
2 min · 1,121 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...
Republicans Welcomed Bernie Sanders to Wisconsin By Calling Him an Extremist. His Response? Perfect.
5 min · 1,094 views today · This was just awesome. No wonder so many people love Sander's message. The opening minutes of the July 1st rally was a classic #FeelTheBern moment, delivered to a 10,000...
Varoufakis Leads European Left to Reclaim Democracy From "Authoritarian Technocrats"
Nadia Prupis · 1,063 views today · Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 seeks to find 'common solutions to common problems,' says former Greek finance minister
Feeling the Yern: Why One Millennial Woman Would Rather Go to Hell Than Vote for Hillary
Holly Wood · 1,060 views today · Stumping for Hillary Clinton this weekend in New Hampshire, hedge fund manager Madeleine Albright squawked, "There's a special place in Hell for women who don't help each...
Alan Watts: The World of Man and Nature
3 min · 1,043 views today · Words from Alan Watts combined with breathtaking timelapse footage by two amazing photographers, and beautiful music by Carbon Based Lifeforms.
9 Ways We Can Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist and More Accessible
Kai Cheng Thom · 1,013 views today · In my first year of college, I stopped calling myself an activist. It took attending just a few meetings of the campus queer group for me to realize that I didn’t fit in with...
Nigerians Are Building Fireproof, Bulletproof, and Eco-Friendly Homes With Plastic Bottles and Mud
Amanda Froelich · 907 views today · These colorful homes are bulletproof, fireproof, and can withstand earthquakes. They also maintain a comfortable temperature, produce zero carbon emissions, and are powered by...
F*ck That: A Guided Meditation for the Realities of Today's World
2 min · 602 views today · Just acknowledge that all that sh*t is f*cking b*llshit — you're here now, in this place, with your inner stillness. Take in a deep breath ... now breathe out. Just feel the...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 417 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
HUMAN (2015)
382 min · 394 views today · What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist...
When Corporatocracy Replaced Democracy - a Dystopian Warning From the Future
Andrew Butler · 392 views today · Ever since Trump was elected the question on everyone's lips has been, "Who’s next?" The border between the US and Mexico is effectively closed to people, although it’s still...
The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy
3 min · 384 views today · What is the best way to ease someone's pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic...
Maya Angelou - Human Family
2 min · 382 views today · Human Family - I note the obvious differences in the human family. Some of us are serious, some thrive on comedy. Some declare their lives are lived as true profundity, and...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?