Date Published: 29th August 2017

Over a hundred experts in robotics and artificial intelligence are calling on the UN to ban the development and use of ‘killer robots’, and add them to a list of ‘morally wrong’ weapons. But with the rate of advancing technology and benefits from the technology, how easy will this be to enforce?

Google’s Mustafa Suleyman and Tesla’s Elon Musk are among the 116 tech experts who have signed an open letter asking the UN to ban autonomous weapons. They have argued that having robots that can work and potentially kill without human intervention would lead to wars “at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend”. Campaign groups have also warned that the technology will lead to more civilian casualties and abuses.

However, a former defence chief has said that the rise of military ‘killer robots’ is almost inevitable and any attempt at an international ban will struggle to stop an arms race. Technology experts predict that artificial intelligence will soon be used to make flying drones, armoured vehicles and submarines that can find and recognise targets, make decisions on whether to open fire and learn as they go. There are so many positive advantages to these new technologies that it will be difficult to avoid adopting them in the future.

For example, the machines will not suffer from short attention span, they will have full focus on the job in hand. Whereas if you look at bored 19-year-olds standing on sentry duty, they get hot, they get cold, their attention span is shorter and likelihood is they are thinking of various other things rather than the opposition.

They would also keep costs down and keep troops out of harms way. Why send a 19 year old with a rifle into a house first to see if anything is in there when you could just send in a machine?

“The temptation to have them I think will be terrific because they will be more effective, they will be cheaper, they will take people out of harm’s way and will give you bigger armed forces, so the pressure to have them will only grow. There you’ve got  a machine that doesn’t get bored, that doesn’t have to be replaced when it resigns early, that never has a pension, or a hospital. This is a really powerful factor.”

What are your views on the future of the military ‘killer robots’? Do you agree with the potential ban or do you believe there are just too many positive aspects of their development to enable this ban to go ahead?



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