Originally published September 3 2014
Killer robots must be outlawed immediately, warns UN official
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Robotics is a technology that has been around for decades, and indeed has been used to streamline manufacturing -- often at the cost of human labor. Over the years, robots have become much more sophisticated and capable, but not everyone believes that is a good thing. In fact, some think that the development of robotics is becoming a threat to the human race.
Angela Kane, the United Nations' high representative for universal weapons disarmament, has said she believes that so-called "killer robots" that can be programmed to fire on anyone without being directly controlled by a human is just a "small step" away from being deployed on future battlefields, and that as such countries should move now to outlaw that.
As reported by Britain's Telegraph newspaper, Kane says governments need to come clean and be more transparent about current programs to develop such technology, adding that a ban now, before they are fully functional, would be best.
"Any weapon of war is terrible, and if you can launch this without human intervention, I think it's even worse. It compounds the problem and dehumanises it in a way," she told the paper. "It becomes a faceless war and I think that's really terrible and so to my mind I think it should be outlawed. The decision is really in the hands of the states who have the capability to develop them."
'There's a great deal of concern'
She added that she had "a great deal of concern" about the possibility that killer robots, through their programming, would be unable to distinguish certain battlefield realities, and that they could then commit major war crimes.
So far, though, the Telegraph reports that great powers have been reluctant to discuss the issue. And some in government -- such as British Foreign Minister Alistair Burt -- have said that countries should reserve the right to deploy such technology if it would be useful in helping to protect their own forces.
"There's a great deal of concern about the increasing automation that's going on in general. Just think about these self-driving cars that we hear are being tested on the roads," Kane told the paper. "So that is only just a small step to develop weapons that are going to be activated without human intervention. Warfare in general is becoming increasingly automated."
She went on to say: "The concern relates specifically to weapons that have the capability of selecting and also attacking targets without human intervention. Who has the responsibility and who has the liability? This is a really big issue in terms of how we are going about this."
In fact, there are already robots being deployed to battlefields. Pilotless drones, which are guided directly from remote locations, have been used to strike targets for nearly a decade now; before them, cruise missile technology. Regarding drones, their use has been linked to "war crimes," in a sense, when they launch weapons that kill innocent noncombatants who, unfortunately, happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
'No weapon should be fired without human intervention'
In addition, robotics are increasingly being used by militaries for bomb disposal. And some countries, like the U.S., are developing other uses for robots on the battlefield.
The Telegraph reported that the UN has held its first meeting on the potential of "lethal autonomous weapons" to threaten humanity. UN officials said another meeting is planned this fall.
Kane said that a number of developing countries have expressed concerns that robotic weapons could be deployed against threats in their territory -- again, like remotely piloted drones in recent years.
"I personally believe that there cannot be a weapon that can be fired without human intervention. I do not believe that there should be a weapon, ever, that is not guided and where there is not the accountability clearly established by whoever takes that step to guide it or to launch it," she told the paper. "I do not believe that we could have weapons that could be controlled by robots."
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