Amid a global drone arms race is the pursuit of ever greater autonomous weapons systems that have come to be known as “killer robots” — systems that will make decisions and carry out lethal strikes with zero need for human input.
Public outrage already has surged over the ongoing drone killings of innocent people in the primarily US-led wars abroad, while even the drone operators themselves have cracked under the strain … revealing that, yes, war is just as horrific if conducted via joystick.
Regardless, the world’s largest defense contractors plunge ahead fueled by a seemingly never-ending stream of taxpayer dollars that continue to improve upon drone weapons systems and robotic artificial intelligence. If investment continues apace, it threatens to merge into a killer robot scenario that tech luminaries, universities, human rights organizations and even robot makers are warning against.
But do taxpayers funding these projects agree with where their money is being spent?
A new study – one of the largest ever on the subject – from the University of British Columbia makes it clear that an overwhelming majority of people, regardless of country or culture, want a complete ban placed upon any further development of these autonomous systems of war.
The United Nations thus far has superficially addressed the issue as a credible threat, but has yet to take definitive action. The results of studies done by the Open Roboethics initiative will be presented at the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Meeting of States Parties slated for Nov. 12-13. Emphasis added…
More than eight out of every 10 individuals surveyed said such robots should not be used for aggression, and 67 per cent said they should be banned across the planet.
More than a thousand people from 54 countries, including the United States, Canada, South Korea, Mexico and the U.K. answered the survey. It was conducted by the Open Roboethics initiative (ORi), a UBC-based group that studies issues concerning robotics and artificial intelligence.
“It has been said that future wars will be fought with completely automated systems,” said AJung Moon, ORi spokesperson and a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering at UBC. “The survey results clearly show that more public discussion is necessary so that we can make intelligent decisions about robotic weapon technologies.”
“Robotic weapon technology is constantly marching forward, so it’s crucial that we have an understanding of public perception and opinion on the matter. This survey certainly contributes to the growing body of information,” said Machiel Van der Loos, associate director of UBC’s human-robot interaction research group, the Collaborative Advanced Robotics and Intelligent Systems (CARIS) Laboratory.
Naturally, there should be concern that U.N. involvement could be a convenient way to internationalize robotics efforts in the same ways that drone treaties have been proposed, which only serve to put the U.S. in the lead to dictate to all countries. Nevertheless, amid all of the other contrived “global efforts,” runaway technology presents a very real threat and could certainly spill across borders intentionally or not. Now that the issue has appeared on the global stage, it is at least one positive step toward mass awareness. More debate is certainly called for … and quickly.
You can visit http://www.openroboethics.org/laws_survey to download copies of the ORi report or to participate in the survey, which will continue to collect data on an ongoing basis.
Also visit The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots – HERE
The video below offers additional information about the ethics of lethal robotic systems.
Please leave your solutions in the comment section below.