killer robot

‘Killer robot’ ban proposed at UN meeting

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An international agreement to ban ‘killer robots’ has been proposed by activists at a meeting organised by the United Nations.

The week-long gathering is the second of its kind this year at UN offices in Geneva to focus on futuristic weapons systems that could conduct war without human intervention.

The Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which is the UN body hosting the talks, has been criticised by some for moving too slowly as the technology required to make such machines advances quickly.

“Killer robots are no longer the stuff of science fiction,” Rasha Abdul Rahim, Amnesty International’s advisor on artificial intelligence and human rights, said in a statement.

“From artificially intelligent drones to automated guns that can choose their own targets, technological advances in weaponry are far outpacing international law,” she said.

“We are calling on states to take concrete steps to halt the spread of these dangerous weapons... before it is too late.”

Some countries are more receptive to a ban on the technology than others.

In December the Russian government argued that restrictions on lethal autonomous weapons systems could be inappropriate and damaging to innovation.

The United States has argued that it is premature to establish a definition of such systems, much less regulate them.

In theory, fully autonomous, computer-controlled weapons do not exist yet, according to UN officials. The debate is still in its infancy, and the experts have at times grappled with basic definitions.

But top advocacy groups say governments and militaries should be prevented from developing such systems, which have sparked fears and led some critics to envisage harrowing scenarios about their use.

Part of the trouble for campaigners is that the UN-supported organisation works by consensus, meaning that any one country - like big military powers - could foil efforts to reach an international ban.

Amandeep Gill, a former Indian ambassador to the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament who is chairing the meeting, said progress is being made. He summarised three general camps of countries: One seeks a formal, legal ban on such weapons; another wants a political, but non-binding agreement; and a last one wants no changes at all.

“We are coming closer to an agreement on what should be the guiding principles - guiding the behaviour of states, and guiding the development and deployment of such systems around the world,” Gill told reporters. “And this is not an insignificant outcome.”

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