“Killer robots”: a moral dilemma

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Will robots to human beings soon be replaced in war?

On Monday (13.11.2017) talks began within the framework of the UN on autonomous weapons systems, while calls were made for an international ban on those “killer robots”, which can transform the nature of war.

The week-long meeting of the group known as the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which began on Monday in Geneva, takes place after more than a hundred professionals in the artificial intelligence industry warned in August past that the automatic weapons can take to a “third revolution in the form to make the war”.

“Once developed, they will allow wars to assume proportions never seen before and on scales of time faster than human beings can understand,” the professionals said in a statement. And they added: “Those deadly machines – not people – will decide about life and death.”

What is an autonomous weapon?

There is no international consensus about what exactly is an autonomous lethal weapon. It is often defined as a system that can aim and fire without any human control. They work on the basis of “artificial intelligence”: algorithms analyze a situational context and determine the corresponding response.

Autonomous lethal weapons in the strict sense do not currently exist. With the “Stop Killer Robots” campaign, a group of NGOs tries to impose a ban on the development and use of such weapons. Activists say that advances in sensor technology and artificial intelligence make “increasingly possible” the creation in the near future of weapon systems that aim and attack without human intervention.

Without guarantee of perfection

There is no guarantee that a technical system will work perfectly, “but the moment they are used in lethal weapons, the dangers and their dimensions multiply,” says Ulrike Franke, a member of the European Council of Foreign Affairs who is currently conducting research. on drones at the University of Oxford.

Franke adds: “An intelligent armed system can quickly become a stupid armed system.” And without a strict definition of what an autonomous weapon is, “there is currently no way to identify and search for them.” This also summarizes the difficulty of being able to reach its prohibition quickly.

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