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Killer Robots Aren't Science Fiction. A Push to Ban Them Is Growing

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A combat robotic vehicle at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in 2008.

This year, for the first time, a majority of the 125 nations that belong to an agreement called the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons said they wanted curbs on killer robots.

Credit: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency/Carnegie Mellon University/Associated Press

It may have seemed like an obscure United Nations conclave, but a meeting this week in Geneva was followed intently by experts in artificial intelligence, military strategy, disarmament and humanitarian law.

The reason for the interest? Killer robots — drones, guns and bombs that decide on their own, with artificial brains, whether to attack and kill — and what should be done, if anything, to regulate or ban them.

Once the domain of science fiction films like the "Terminator" series and "RoboCop," killer robots, more technically known as Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, have been invented and tested at an accelerated pace with little oversight. Some prototypes have even been used in actual conflicts.

The evolution of these machines is considered a potentially seismic event in warfare, akin to the invention of gunpowder and nuclear bombs.

From The New York Times
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