When I first heard about “killer robots” I was pretty sure this was a hoax. But I quickly realized that this was serious – and scary – stuff. As much as this seems like the beginning of an apocalyptic blockbuster, a quick Google search will reveal the truth. This is Real Life®. Get ready for the future, folks. Robot Assassins are coming to a war near you.
What we are talking about here are Lethal Autonomous Robots (LARs) – highly sophisticated robots that can select and kill targets without a human being involved in the process at all. These machines may sound like science fiction, but it is now believed that the technology to create such killer robots will be perfected in the near future.
The debate over killer robots keeps a distance from ‘Skynet‘ style sci-fi themes of global takeovers and robotic cataclysms, but there is still a nightmarish quality to technology’s capabilities. Is it a good idea to let machines make decisions about the life and death of humans? Will letting robots kill combatants also result in many innocent civilian deaths? The dilemma is further explained by Jarmo Sareva:
“[t]he emergence of autonomous weapons calls into question the adequacy of measures to implement the rules of armed conflict that apply to the use of all weapon systems. The purpose of these rules is clear. The major imperative is to protect civilians from unacceptable harm. There must also be adequate human accountability at all times. Yet, one key question posed by autonomous weapons is how can accountability be maintained when humans are no longer involved in the final decision?”
Autonomous mechanical murderers were far from my mind when I was imagining potential threats to the safety and success of mankind, but luckily our nations’ representatives have broader foresight. My eyes have been opened by this new reason to look under my bed every night. Until global legislation is passed, killer robots remain a threat to humanity.