United Nations report says no to killer robots

"Killer robots should not have power to destroy human life" says U.N. report.

By Kevin Lee, TechHive |  Security, robotics, robots

The Human Rights Watch isn't the only international organization with a vendetta against killer automatons . According to a recent United Nations report, the U.N. is already working to stem the development of killer robots.

The report , written by Christof Heyns for the U.N. Human Rights Commission, calls for a worldwide moratorium on the use of killer robots until an international conference can develop rules for their use. This includes a stop on the "testing, production, assembly, transfer, acquisition, deployment and use" of lethal autonomous robotics (LARs) until we can fully evaluate the concerns of giving autonomous robots the power to decide life-and-death.

"Taking humans out of the loop also risks taking humanity out of the loop."

These concerns of course stem from the legal, ethical, philosophical, and moral issues of taking a life that a cold, calculating machine might not even consider. According to the report, the United States, Britain, Israel, South Korea, and Japan have already developed various types of fully or semi-autonomous robotic weapons.

When presenting the possibility that humans will be able to retain the ability to "override" autonomous machines, Heynes notes that a computer's decision-making processes takes virtual nanoseconds. A robot also is suspect to making decisions on a strictly informational basis--for example a robot might identify a dangerous individual based on an instantaneous background search--which may not be apparent to a human supervisor.

Report author Christof Heyns also stresses the point that "Taking humans out of the loop also risks taking humanity out of the loop." Heyns cites the works of philosopher Peter Asaro who says turning lethal force into an arbitrary exercise will make it so "all resulting deaths [become] arbitrary deprivations of life."

"Lethal autonomous robotics, if added to the arsenals of States, would add a new dimension to this distancing, in that targeting decisions could be taken by the robots themselves. In addition to being physically removed from the kinetic action, humans would also become more detached from decisions to kill--and their execution." Heyns wrote in the U.N. report.

Heyns will officially deliver his recommendations to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on May 29. So we'll have to wait and see if there's any legislative action to save lives and our own humanity from lethal autonomous robots.

[United Nations General Assembly via The Nation ]

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