Scientists Support Banning Killer War Robots

MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft system.U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The development of autonomous weapons is a growing concern in the scientific community.

Scientists and ethics experts at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting called for a ban on autonomous weapons last month. They argue that weapons controlled by artificial intelligence (AI) are unpredictable and kill innocent people. 89 non-governmental organizations from dozens of countries around the world have formed the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in an attempt to create an international treaty.

"We are not talking about walking, talking terminator robots that are about to take over the world; what we are concerned about is much more imminent: conventional weapons systems with autonomy,” said Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, one of the most outspoken groups against autonomous weapons. "They are beginning to creep in. Drones are the obvious example, but there are also military aircraft that take off, fly and land on their own; robotic sentries that can identify movement. These are precursors to autonomous weapons."

Some robotics companies are also in support of the ban proposal, including Clearpath Robotics. "As advanced as we are, the state of AI is really limited by image recognition,” CEO Ryan Gariepy told BBC News. “It is good but does not have the detail or context to be judge, jury and executioner on a battlefield. "An autonomous system cannot make a decision to kill or not to kill in a vacuum. The de-facto decision has been made thousands of miles away by developers, programmers and scientists who have no conception of the situation the weapon is deployed in."

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