UK opposes international ban on developing 'killer robots'

The UK is opposing an international ban on so-called “killer robots” at a United Nations conference that is this week examining future developments of what are officially termed lethal autonomous weapons systems (Laws).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket near the southern city of Beersheba in 2012 – part of Israel’s defence system programmed to respond automatically to attack.

Photograph: Nir Elias/Reuters

 
 

Experts from the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence are participating in the week-long session in Geneva which will consider whether increased computing power will eventually enable drones and other machines to select targets and carry out attacks without direct human intervention.

The meeting, chaired by a German diplomat, Michael Biontino, has also been asked to discuss questions such as: in what situations are distinctively human traits, such as fear, hate, sense of honour and dignity, compassion and love desirable in combat?, and in what situations do machines lacking emotions offer distinct advantages over human combatants?

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an alliance of human rights groups and concerned scientists, is calling for an international prohibition on fully autonomous weapons.

Last week Human Rights Watch released a report urging the creation of a new protocol specifically aimed at outlawing Laws. Blinding laser weapons were pre-emptively outlawed in 1995 and combatant nations since 2008 have been required to remove unexploded cluster bombs.

Some states already deploy defence systems – such as Israel’s Iron Dome and the US Phalanx and C-Ram – that are programmed to respond automatically to threats from incoming munitions. Work is also progressing on what is known as “automatic target recognition”.

 

   
"We do not see the need for a prohibition as international humanitarian law already provides sufficient regulation."   UK Foreign Office spokesperson

 

 



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