The not-so-distant future may involve killer robots and a coalition is worried about the serious consequences of their ability to kill people without needing to take any directions.

Via international treaty, global NGO coalition Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is lobbying to preemptively ban autonomous weapons systems. Speaking as a panel at a press conference held at the United Nations building last week, they said the development of such technology is moving much ahead a diplomatic deal for their ban.

The United States military is now testing a computer-operated drone.

Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions, said the target may be “that split-second advantage” that computers, believed to be much faster than humans, can afford state and military operations. Heyns also added that technology can conduct better targeting.

The U.S. is likely to take the lead in developing these autonomous weapons, with the defense department focusing on it and investing in new and existing capabilities in that direction.

However, statistics show that targeting may not be these potential killer robots' strong suit. In a report, 9 out of 10 individuals killed by human-controlled drones in Afghanistan during a given five-month period were not the intended targets.

Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales, a coalition member, said autonomous weapons governed by artificial intelligence (AI) would produce a worse amount of casualties. He said the machine likely will not discriminate between a soldier and civilian, or calculate “a more proportionate response.”

Walsh added that the AI of these weapons are perhaps half a century away from the higher abilities of a Terminator-type technology.

The Patriot anti-missile structure that downed two allied war planes and other mechanized weapons now lining the demilitarized areas between South and North Korea show how autonomous technologies are currently used. The latter still alert sans operator to give the final go for pulling the trigger.

Instead of regulations, the campaign is pushing for a ban against such weapon systems. Campaign contributors through various forms include Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and about a thousand A.I. experts, who profess that it will “only be a matter of time” until such weapons go to terrorist bodies and dictator governments.

The campaign also has gone through two years of informal multilateral talks. At the next Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) meeting in Geneva on Nov. 13, 120 signatory countries will decide on the continuation of talks.

So-called “battlefield robots” are in the works not just in the U.S. and Russia, but also in other countries that include Israel. China is also currently doing robot weaponry through the Pterodactyl and Sharp Sword, drones that they indigenously created. Singapore is also planning to make a foray in military robot technology.

Photo: Eric Sonstroem | Flickr

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