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Stop the Killer Robots campaign


A  group of academics, pressure groups and Nobel peace prize laureates are launching a new global campaign to persuade nations to ban "killer robots" before they reach the production stage.

Dr Noel Sharkey, a leading robotics and artificial intelligence expert, says that development of the weapons "is taking place in an effectively unregulated environment, with little attention being paid to moral implications and international law" and robot warfare and autonomous weapons will be available within the decade.

Sharkey states: "These things are not science fiction; they are well into development. The research wing of the Pentagon in the US is working on the X47B [unmanned plane] which has supersonic twists and turns with a G-force that no human being could manage, a craft which would take autonomous armed combat anywhere in the planet. In America they are already training more drone pilots than real aircraft pilots, looking for young men who are very good at computer games. They are looking at swarms of robots, with perhaps one person watching what they do."

"There are a lot of people very excited about this technology, in the US, at BAE Systems, in China, Israel and Russia, very excited at what is set to become a multibillion-dollar industry. This is going to be big, big money. But actually there is no transparency, no legal process. The laws of war allow for rights of surrender, for prisoner of war rights, for a human face to take judgments on collateral damage. Humans are thinking, sentient beings. If a robot goes wrong, who is accountable? Certainly not the robot... Article 36 in the Geneva Convention says that any new weapon has to take into account whether it can distinguish and discriminate between combatant and civilian, but the problem here is that an autonomous robot is not a weapon until you clip on the gun."

Human Rights Watch produced a 50-page report last year, Losing Humanity: the Case Against Killer Robots, outlining concerns about fully autonomous weapons.

"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.


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