It’s a Hollywood blockbuster premise rooted in our not-so-distant future.
For decades, robot thrillers such as “The Terminator,” “Blade Runner” and “Westworld” have warned viewers that our reliance on artificial intelligence is a real threat to civilization. Now, real-life researchers with the Human Rights Watch are sounding the alarm on potentially world-ending “killer robots,” according to a new report.
The message comes as part of their Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which calls for a global ban on “fully autonomous weapons.”
In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator: Hasta la vista, baby.
“Removing human control from the use of force is now widely regarded as a grave threat to humanity that, like climate change, deserves urgent multilateral action,” said Mary Wareham, advocacy director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, in a press release on HRW.org, whose campaign is pushing for “an international ban treaty” on AI-operated weapons.
Their review, which analyzed defense policies from 97 countries that outlined stances on lethal robotics, revealed that a majority of lawmakers believe human intervention is fundamental to ethical weapons systems.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called the advanced programs “morally repugnant and politically unacceptable” and urged countries to take action.
The authors explain that autonomous weapons “would decide who lives and dies, without … inherently human characteristics such as compassion that are necessary to make complex ethical choices.” Aside from many other potential pitfalls of programming death machines, HRW suggests their use would also make unclear who would be held responsible for unlawful acts of war committed by an autonomous weapon: the computer programmers or the military commanders?
So far, at least 30 countries, including Austria, Brazil and Chile, are seeking to put a global ban on the use of these weapons, according to the report.
However, a minority of influential countries, namely Russia and the United States, have hampered talks — while notably “investing heavily in the development of various autonomous weapons systems,” the report claims.
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