Robotic Killers And Autonomous Weapons Should Be Stopped
February 25, 2013

Professors, Nobel Winners Seeking Global Ban On Robotic Soldiers

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Academic professionals, advocacy groups and former Nobel peace prize winners are among those joining forces to launch a new, international effort to ban autonomous weapons, according to various media reports published over the weekend.

The Stop the Killer Robots initiative, which is being spearheaded by Sheffield University professor and artificial intelligence guru Dr. Noel Sharkey, is attempting to stop production of these robotic war machines before they reach the production stage, Daily Mail reporter Leon Watson wrote on Sunday.

"These things are not science fiction; they are well into development," Sharkey told Tracy McVeigh of The Observer. "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,” he added. “There are a lot of people very excited about this technology“¦ 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.”

According to Watson, the campaign will officially be launched in April at the UK´s House of Commons. At that time, Sharkey and his colleagues, who will include US political activist Jody Williams, who was presented with a Nobel peace prize for her work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, will argue against the notion deploying robotic soldiers would actually help save the lives of human soldiers.

The professor, who said he is not inherently anti-war, added he is concerned science is moving too quickly and that autonomous troops could violate at least the spirit of the Geneva Convention and the international laws of war. Sharkey also explained he is concerned AI soldiers would likely be unable to “distinguish between a child holding up a sweet and an adult pointing a gun,” the Daily Mail reporter added.

Williams, who is the chairperson for the Nobel Women's Initiative, told The Observer she believes a ban on these so-called “killer robots” could be achieved in much the same way her organization helped achieve a global embargo on anti-personnel landmines. "Killer robots loom over our future if we do not take action to ban them now," she added. "The six Nobel peace laureates involved in the Nobel Women's Initiative fully support the call for an international treaty to ban fully autonomous weaponized robots."