As a kid in the fifties science fiction fascinated this writer. Little green men from Mars, man exploring the heavens and robots taking over the world. For now space exploration is the only on those three that has materialised but what about robots?
For many years we have relied on mechanical automatons or basic robots. The car industry quickly springs to mind with "robots" reducing the number of employees needed and carrying out vehicle painting and more.
This week Human Rights Watch group, H.R.W. has launched a campaign against "killer robots". Yes science fiction is about to become science fact.
"Urgent action is needed to preemptively ban lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention," the international non-governmental organization said in a release promoting its Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. "Lethal armed robots that could target and kill without any human intervention should never be built," said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. "A human should always be 'in-the-loop' when decisions are made on the battlefield. Killer robots would cross moral and legal boundaries, and should be rejected as repugnant to the public conscience."
You may choose to believe that having robotic "friends" will be a good thing. They can undertake mundane tasks and even dangerous ones but they could be used for sinister purposes. Unless you are naive or a fool you will already know that. It is just that sometimes we put our faith in governments and try to believe that they are acting for the good of all; some are but many may not be. We also have to consider potential future governments and regimes.
We already know that humans make poor choices and decisions sometimes. Look at the evidence Bradley Manning brought to the world's attention for confirmation; U.S. soldiers "taking out" alleged insurgents with a glib, could not care less, attitude.
The U.S.A has shamefully used unmanned drones to kill alleged insurgents, in places such as Pakistan. In reality this has meant killing civilians in foreign lands. These are not countries that the U.S. is at war with, simply countries that it believes are home to insurgents. Other western nations are investing in similar drones.
"According to the New America Foundation, U.S. drone strikes killed 2,439 to 3,982 people in Pakistan and Yemen between 2004 and 2013" - Cnet. Now there are calls for the international community to come together and create a "treaty banning the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons, as well as local laws against them".
Action to "police" the development of "killer robots" is long overdue. Will the U.S.A. act as before? In the past it has stock piled huge amounts of weapons of mass destruction before demanding that others do not develop such weapons. America's nuclear arsenal is huge but it fears countries like North Korea and Iran could follow suit. Hypocritically the U.S. does not have a problem with Isreal's mighty arsenal.
Is it already too late to stop "killer robots"?
Ban killer robots call to action