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Can We Stop Killer Robots? U.N. Meets to Debate Possible Treaty


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Part of a recent protest to ban killer robots.

The United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is pondering lethal autonomous weapons systems (also known as killer robots).

Credit: Carl Court/AFP/Getty

The United Nations' Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons this week heard from technical and legal experts on the subject of killer robots, or "lethal autonomous weapons systems."

The briefings and panel debates may eventually lead to a treaty on such weapons.

A key aspect of the discussions is the definition of meaningful human control, or the degree of human involvement needed in the process of killing someone on the battlefield. Delegates also will consider the possible challenges to International Humanitarian Law presented by lethal autonomous weapons.

Stanford University's Peter Asaro says there is a growing consensus of the unacceptability for robots to kill people without human supervision. On the first day of the meetings, Asaro said Croatia and Japan made strong statements on this point. In a document outlining its views on the subject ahead of the meeting, Japan noted "Japan's Ministry of Defense has no plan to develop robots with humans out of the loop, which may be capable of committing murder."

Even the most optimistic estimates suggest a treaty or formalized ban is at least a year or two away.

From New Scientist
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