Autonomous Battlefield Killing Machines Addressed at the United Nations [F]

The ethics surrounding future “killer robots” or LARs (lethal autonomous robots) was recently brought to the fore at the United Nations in Geneva. Christof Heyns, Professor of Human Rights Law, presented a special report on 30 May 2013 which he warned that LARs — none currently deployed in any battlefield but very much in development — could blur the lines of command in war crimes cases. He added that action must be taken before the technology overtakes existing legislation.

Heyns made a logical appeal to ban the development of robots that could kill without any human input. Hayns gives a great abstract argument about future technology and how failure to define or comprehend its implications will result in… anarchy, I suppose. Here’s the full audio report from UNOG:

Christof Heyns Lethal Autonomous Robots.mp3

I’m not convinced that a law ban will phase-out the development of LARs, but I am convinced that Heyns has many more proposals for the UN to consider in regards to “autonomous systems” and their protocols for saving lives and killing them. Perhaps this is the first stepping stone towards creating a few robotic laws of some sort, “hint hint:”

Anarchy, not revolution ^ Not yet anyway.

Basically, new laws are destined to be made in order to define what these new weaponized robots are — killer rombas or killer garden-sprinklers — and who will be accountable for their actions and lack of programming should something go wrong. Whose to say that a robot malfunction doesn’t fall under the legal term, act of God? Hopefully these laws, as Heyns suggested, are created and pass before LARs become a reality. You can’t prosecute a robot, so surely a new level of weaponry deserves new legislation to safeguard the possibility of their being any victims injured in the event of robotic deployment, implicit or not. LARs sound to me like a deterministic excuse, and man must remain responsible (see Jean-Paul Sartre‘s definition of anguish — Existentialism and Humanism), otherwise, what on Earth are we living for? Create robots to find and f-over so man can forget it ever happened and feel nothing? Any mechanism that comes between a man and his moral judgements removes sincerity from accountability — the psychology of morality in other words. I’m astounded at how genius robotics experts and UN officials can be so naive. Christof Heyns makes absolute sense to me and I truly hope people in power take him seriously. I doubt me blogging about the topic is going to effect any change.

The only reasonable justification I see for manufacturing autonomous weapons is ‘kill or be killed,’ which taken out of context of human self-defense, doesn’t justify the development of LARs. Robotic deterrents for the sake of intimidation is a pitiful use of science and technology. I don’t approve of weapons of war, but unmanned-drones at least have an operator making reasoned decisions with the knowledge of the worth of a human life.

If this reminds you of every movie you’ve ever seen with a robot in it, that’s because speculative science fiction has always simulated the future, and technology in its state of perpetual growth always catches up to those speculations allowing for those clever geniuses in reality to imitate fiction in miraculous ways. The significance of this event is the fact that the UN will have to at some point create new laws to define and support the use of LARs if their development is not banned outright for the reasons stated above, because sadly, we are all of us living in a gun-toting, human-fearing world.

A lethal automaton would make no sense* of that part of our illogical psychosis: the benefit of someone’s death.

~ by Fionnlagh on June 3, 2013.

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