Although killer robots may sound like the stuff of science fiction shows, Hollywood movies or violent video games, human rights groups around the globe are actually prepping for a potential encounter with them in the not-so-distant future.
Campaign to Stop Killer Robots – which is an actual group and not the title of a video game – is currently slated to meet later this month at a global summit in Geneva, Switzerland.
On May 29, a coalition of international groups will get together to discuss the issue in lieu of a recently-released UN report that outlined a number of advanced weapons earlier this week. Overall, the campaign hopes to persuade nations to sign onto an international ban on autonomous weapons.
According to the campaign's website, the UN report details weapons systems that can select and kill targets without a human being directly issuing a command – an alarming prospect the group believes no country should take lightly.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots states lethal autonomous robots, “Raise far-reaching concerns about the protection of life during war and peace. This includes the question of the extent to which they can be programmed to comply with the requirements of international humanitarian law and the standards of life under international human rights.”
Mary Wareham, the campaign’s coordinator, said there’s a difference between autonomous weapons and armed drones.
“Fully autonomous weapons have complete autonomy in terms of who they target and how they engage force,” she told Raw Story. “And by autonomy, I mean no human operation, intervention or involvement. With armed drones, there is still what they call ‘the man in the loop.’ Unlike autonomous weapons, drones are still controlled by a human.”
Previously, Human Rights Watch delivered a lengthy report in November entitled “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots,” in which the organization raised a number of issues related to the subject, including international laws, accountability, and potential threats to civilian populations.