Combat drones are believed to be the first step in the development of lethal autonomous robotics

UK urged to oppose killer robots

Shadow Welsh minister Nia Griffith said the UK should lead by example and ban any future development of so-called killer robots.

Lethal autonomous robotics (LARs) are advanced killing machines, believed to be the next stage in the evolution of unmanned drones capable of killing without people having to pull the trigger.

Earlier this year, UN’s human rights investigator Christof Heyns raised concerns about LARS and condemned them as a ‘threat to international stability’. He urged member states to establish dedicated policies and draw up an international community approach.

Next week, the issue will be tabled during a Commons adjournment debate led by Labour MP Ms Griffith who wants the government to constrain any future development before companies make large investments into it.

"I think this technology is all very new to people. People know about drones but I don't think people have huge technological expertise or understanding of what we have here."

Development of LARS that can be either completely controlled by people, just monitored while operating autonomously or operate completely without outside intervention, was already suspended in the USA where a 5 year moratorium was issued last November.

"Even Pakistan at the meeting suggested we need something similar to the ban on blinding lasers before it ever gets used”, Griffith said.

As the technology is still nascent, it is hard to predict which direction it might turn, Griffith said. "There's no saying what's going on behind the scenes. I am sure we will be shown lots of nice things on the telly of the good purposes of the components but I am sure we are not told of the less desirable things."

The development of LARs presents many ethical issues as with an autonomously killing system at hand the issue of accountability becomes rather obscure. The UN report maintained robotic systems should not be given the power to decide over life and death and pointed out that if ever implemented, these systems might easily breach international humanitarian law.

Killer robots are just one of possible future directions in the development of robotics. Yesterday, the E&T News reported about the supportive robots and the increasing requirement for them to be 'cute' in order to succeed in the personal robots market.

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