‘Campaign to Stop Killer Robots’ calling for ban on ‘fully autonomous weapons’

from rawstory.com: The idea of autonomous killer robots may seem like the stuff of
science fiction, but human rights groups are already preparing for what
appears to be the future of weaponry.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots,
a coalition of international groups, is preparing for a global summit
in Geneva Switzerland on Wednesday, May 29 that will review a U.N. report on these types of weapons
that was released earlier this week. The Campaign hopes to convince
nations to sign on to an international ban on autonomous weapons.

Raw Story spoke with Mary Wareham of the Arms Division of Human
Rights Watch, who is the coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer
Robots. The Campaign also includes representatives of Association for Aid and Relief Japan, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the International Committee for Robot Arms Control and others. Wareham began by explaining that there is a difference between these autonomous weapons and armed drones.

“We’re calling the weapons we’re talking about ‘fully autonomous,’”
she said. “The U.N. report calls them ‘lethal autonomous robotics.’

“Fully autonomous weapons have complete autonomy in terms of
who they target and how they engage force,”
she said. “And by autonomy, I
mean no human operation, intervention or involvement. With armed
drones, there is still what they call ‘the man in the loop.’ Unlike
autonomous weapons, drones are still controlled by a human.”

She said that while some people might find the campaign’s focus
far-fetched or outlandish, this is the direction weaponry in which
weaponry is moving, toward greater and greater autonomy.

“Our objective is to see what comes next,” she said. She cautioned
against believing that autonomous weapons would be humanoid, cyborg
“Terminators” like in the film series.

“We’re not talking about Terminators, here,” she said, “or cyborgs,
or whatever you want to call sophisticated killer robots that people
think of from science fiction. We’re saying that autonomous weapons will
come in all different shapes and sizes.
And even the most rudimentary
device may be lethal.”

Human Rights Watch issued a 50-page report in November
entitled “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots,” in which
the organization discussed issues of international humanitarian law, of
accountability and other threats to civilians posed by autonomous

It also listed current weapons systems in use in the world that are
what HRW sees as precursors to autonomous weapons systems, including
armed drones, but also much larger aircraft like the X-47B,
a pilotless stealth fighter that launched from an aircraft carrier this
Other weapons include stationary weapons systems like the Samsung SGR-1 robotwhich
currently uses infrared vision to patrol the border between North and
South Korea, directing machine-gun fire at warm, moving targets.

Currently, she said, the Korean device has to “signal back to
base” and receive human permission to fire on targets. She does not
expect that step to remain in place forever.

“There’s debate as to when fully autonomous weapons will show up,”
Wareham said. “Some people say within 20 or 30 years, which we put in
the report. Others say sooner.”

Also in November, the Pentagon issued a directive regarding autonomous weapons
pledging that the U.S. military will keep humans in the loop with
regards to decisions of targeting and the use of force. The upside of
that, said Wareham, is that no other country is even considering a
policy on autonomous weapons, even though all of the “usual suspects”
(China, Russia and the U.S.) are exploring the technology.

The downside of the U.S. policy brief is that the treaty on
autonomous weapons has to be renewed and is only in effect for the next
10 years at most

When asked how current U.S. use of armed drones augurs for the future
of autonomous weapons, Wareham said, “At Human Rights Watch, we’ve been
working on armed drones for several years since they first started to
deploy them. Our principle concern is with the use of armed drones, the
rules regarding that, the compliance with international humanitarian
law, the lack of transparency, the targeted killing policy, the role of
the CIA and the Department of Defense, but all of those things relate to
how drones are used” and will also have an impact on remote weapons
when humans are removed from the process.

“We’ve got multiple concerns about drones,” she said, “but we’re also
keeping an eye on the future and where this technology is heading.”

“We have to start asking the questions now. We have to start
discussing it,” she said, “and start putting some rules and regulations
in place around how we handle autonomy in warfare.”

In Geneva next Wednesday, the delegation from Human Rights Watch
intends to ask for an international treaty on autonomous weapons, “but
those discussions haven’t even started yet,” she said. “We’re at the
very beginning here.”

According to the U.N. report,
“lethal autonomous robotics raise far-reaching concerns about the
protection of life during war and peace. This includes the question of
the extent to which they can be programmed to comply with the
requirements of international humanitarian law and the standards
protecting life under international human rights law. Beyond this, their
deployment may be unacceptable because no adequate system of legal
accountability can be devised, and because robots should not have the
power of life and death over human beings.”

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