Britain has been accused of blocking progress towards a global treaty banning so-called “killer robots” and leaving the door ajar for the development of hi-tech weaponry capable of taking lives without human control. Campaigners have said the UK is part of a small group of “militarized states” whose stance on autonomous weapons is now at odds with much of the rest of the world after a United Nations conference in Geneva last week failed to make a breakthrough on negotiations towards a global ban on lethal “digital dehumanization” technology.
With Covid-19 incapacitating startling numbers of U.S. service members and modern weapons proving increasingly lethal, the American military is relying ever more frequently on intelligent robots to conduct hazardous combat operations. Such devices, known in the military as “autonomous weapons systems,” include robotic sentries, battlefield-surveillance drones, and autonomous submarines. So far, in other words, robotic devices are merely replacing standard weaponry on conventional battlefields.
Covid-19, an ongoing global human tragedy, may have at least one silver lining. It has led millions of people to question America’s most malignant policies at home and abroad. Regarding Washington’s war policies abroad, there’s been speculation that the coronavirus might, in the end, put a dent in such conflicts, if not prove an unintended peacemaker -- and with good reason, since a cash-flush Pentagon has proven impotent as a virus challenger. Meanwhile, it’s become ever more obvious that, had a fraction of “defense” spending been invested in chronically underfunded disease control agencies, this country’s response to the coronavirus crisis might have been so much better. Curiously enough, though, despite President Trump’s periodic complaints about America’s “ridiculous endless wars,” his administration has proven remarkably unwilling to agree to even a modest rollback in U.S. imperial ambitions.
Campaigners say killer robots and other autonomous weapons systems should be banned before it’s too late. Rapid technological advances are bringing them closer to reality but international law is failing to keep up, according to Amnesty International. It comes as a group of governmental experts meet in Geneva to consider options for countering the threat of such weapons. There have long been fears artificial intelligence — computer systems and machines that can perform tasks that traditionally have required human brains — can be used to create things like killer robots.
By W.J. Hennigan and Brian Bennett for Los Angeles Times - Negotiators had been talking for hours with the hunkered-down killer of five police officers in downtown Dallas when the man suddenly resumed firing with an assault rifle. Fearing additional casualties, the officers deployed a small, remote-controlled robot to carry an explosive device near shooter Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, which they then detonated, killing him. “We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was,” Police Chief David Brown said at a news conference Friday morning.
By Nadia Prupis for Common Dreams - As news emerges that police officers in Dallas, Texas used an armed robot to kill the suspected shooter in Thursday night's ambush, experts are warning that it represents a sea change in police militarization that only heightens risks to human and constitutional rights.
Referring to the development of weapons that could select targets and kill people without any human intervention as “unconscionable”, 20 individuals and organizations who have won the Nobel peace prize today issued a joint statement endorsing the call for a preemptive ban on these fully autonomous weapons. The signatories—which include Jody Williams (1997), Lech Walesa (1983), Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1984), President F.W. de Klerk (1993), President Oscar Arias Sánchez (1987), Shirin Ebadi (2003) and Tawakkol Karman (2011)—warn that robotic machines are “already taking the place of soldiers on the battlefield.” In their statement, the Nobel laureates note the concern that “leaving the killing to machines might make going to war easier and shift the burden of armed conflict onto civilians.” They also “applaud and support” the efforts of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots to move us back from a “possible future of robotic warfare.” The Nobel peace laureates have released their statement on the eve of the first-ever multilateral talks on killer robots, taking place this week at the United Nations in Geneva. The Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) is hosting a meeting of experts Tuesday, May 13 to Friday, May 16.