Killer robots: resistance is futile

A humanoid robot drives a vehicle
Homestead, Dec. 20, 2013: Hubo, a humanoid robot built by a group of U.S. universities, drives a vehicle during the DARPA Robotics Challenge (source: dpa)

Autonomous weapons are set to be a prominent feature of the battlefields of the future. These robots, also known as lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), are machines capable of identifying, selecting and attacking targets independent of any human in the decision-making process. Many governments are working hard on developing the technology, but there is an international effort underway to curtail or outright ban it. This effort is likely to fail.

Autonomous weapons are set to be a prominent feature of the battlefields of the future. These robots, also known as lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), are machines capable of identifying, selecting and attacking targets independent of any human in the decision-making process. Many governments are working hard on developing the technology, but there is an international effort underway to curtail or outright ban it. This effort is likely to fail.

The use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as “drones,” in recent years has raised new concerns over the ethics and legality of technologically advanced weapons. The United States military and intelligence services have frequently employed armed drones to conduct lethal strikes as part of antiterrorist campaigns in the Greater Middle East and South Asia.

Other nations are also developing combat drones, and the market for them is growing. The interest in such technology has not stopped at aerial vehicles. The U.S. and other countries have been working on unmanned surface and undersea robotic systems.

Efforts to introduce new international restrictions on the employment of UAVs have proven fruitless. Arms control advocates are now turning their attention toward pushing for regulations on emerging military technologies, including LAWS.

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