NEW YORK (CNN) – “The Jetsons” gave us the dream of a robot designed to help. “The Terminator” gave us the nightmare of a machine designed to kill. The future is apparently here
Starting Thursday in Geneva, the United Nations holds its first ever convention on “lethal autonomous weapons systems”, aka killer robots.
“We’re living in an incredibly important moment when it comes to the history of weapons and war. Now we’re having to compare weapons by their intelligence, they’re autonomy. That’s something new that we haven’t measured before,” said Peter Singer, author of “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution”.
Machines like these developed by the Pentagon, still require human direction but can also take the brunt of physical risk on the battlefield.
While unmanned drones have enabled U.S. pilots to remotely strike targets as far away as Afghanistan. Both South Korea and Israel have operated semi-autonomous lethal sentry robots near their borders.
What happens when robots can control themselves entirely? Including lethal actions, who’s accountable for those actions?
“Now chronologically the human decision may be something that’s made hours, days, weeks, months beforehand. That’s the part that’s truly complicating in terms of not just the politics of this but the legal, the moral, the ethical side,” said Singer.
Movies like “The Terminator” show Hollywood’s version of a machine without human ethics and emotion, uncontrolled and dangerous.
Proponents of real military technology argue the current laws of war would sufficiently apply to so-called “killer robots.”
The U.N. will discuss this week whether this technology should be banned or restricted in any way from causing “unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering”
Groups like the campaign to stop killer robots don’t want to give it the chance, using this spokes-bot to promote its message that any future “kill functions” should be prohibited outright.
“We’re certainly not in the world of the terminator yet but it is true that the technologies are starting to do more on their own. The software programming may be the important part of the decision and that’s the part we’re really not well equipped to deal with,” said Singer.