FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots

The development of “killer robots” is a new and original way of using human intelligence for perverse means. Human directing machines to kill and destroy in a scale not yet imagined is a concept that not even George Orwell could have imagined. In the meantime, the leading world powers continue their un-merry-go-round of destruction and death -mostly of innocent civilians- without stopping to consider the consequences of their actions.

Killer robots are fully autonomous weapons that can identify, select and engage targets without meaningful human control. Although fully developed weapons of this kind do not yet exist, the world leaders such as the U.S., the U.K, Israel, Russia, China and South Korea are already working on creating their precursors.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that in 2012, 76 countries had some kind of drones, and 16 countries already possessed armed ones. The U.S. Department of Defense spends $6 billion every year on the research and development of better drones.

South Korea is presently using the Samsung Techwin security surveillance guard robots, which the country uses in the demilitarized zone it shares with North Korea. Although these units are currently operated by humans, the robots have an automatic feature that can detect body heat and fire a machine gun without human intervention.

Israel is developing an armed drone called Harop that could select targets with a special sensor. Northrop Grumman has also developed an autonomous drone called the X-47B which can travel on a preprogrammed flight path while being monitored by a pilot on a ship. It is planned to enter into active service by 2019. China is also moving rapidly in this area. In 2012 it already had 27 armed drone models, one of which is an autonomous air-to-air supersonic combat aircraft.

Killer robots follow the generation of drones and, as with drones, their potential use is also creating a host of human rights, legal and ethical issues. Military officials state that this kind of hardware protects human life by taking soldiers and pilots out of harm’s way. What they don’t say, however, is that the protected lives are those of the attacking armies, not those of the mostly civilians who are their targets, whose untimely deaths are euphemistically called collateral damage.

According to Denise Garcia, an expert in international law, four branches of internationally law have been used to limit violence in war: the law of state responsibility, the law on the use of force, international humanitarian law and human rights law. As currently carried out, U.S. drone strikes violate all of them.

From the ethical point of view, the use of these machines presents a moral dilemma: by allowing machines to make life-and death decisions we remove people’s responsibility for their actions and eliminate accountability. Lack of accountability almost ensures future human rights violations. In addition, many experts believe that the proliferation of autonomous weapons would make an arms race inevitable.

As the United Nations is trying to negotiate the future use of autonomous weapons, the U.S. and U.K. representatives want to support weaker rules that would prohibit future technology but not killer robots developed during the negotiating period. That delay would allow existing semi-autonomous prototypes to continue being used.

The need for a pre-emptive ban on the development and use of this kind of weapon is urgent. As Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions stated recently, “If there is not a pre-emptive ban on the high-level autonomous weapons, then once the genie is out of the bottle it will be extremely difficult to get it back in.”

More articles by:

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
April 09, 2020
John Davis
Freedom Virus
Vincent Emanuele
The New Normal: Cascading and Multilayered Crises
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie’s Last Tape
John O'Kane
Remove the Boomer Virus and What Virus Remains?
Kevin Bixby – Daryl T. Smith
The Border Wall Risks Us All
Nick Pemberton
Could COVID-19 Count Fox News Among Its Victims?
Howard Lisnoff
American Exceptionalism in the Face of Covid-19
Charles Pierson
We Are Living (And Dying) in Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death”
Sam Husseini
Sanders Suspends: What Happened? What Now?
Binoy Kampmark
Banal Terrors: Pandemics and the Ordinary Business of War
Ted Rall
Why We Need a New Progressive Party and How We Can Create It
Walden Bello
Martin Khor: the Making of a Global Activist
Ariel Dorfman
COVID-19 and the Lessons of Life in Exile
Merriam Ansara
John Lennon in Quarantine: a Letter From Havana
George Wuerthner
Politics and Corruption at Grand Canyon
Eugene Schulman
Lost in the Pandemic: the Forever Wars
Dean Baker
Basic Economics for Economic Columnists: a Depression is a Process, Not an Event
George Ochenski
The Dishonest Mr. Daines
Mike Ferner
Love in a Dangerous Time
Brian Horejsi
Beware Government Secrecy in Times of Pandemic
Sam Pizzigati
No Fennel in the Sausage, No $600 for the Jobless
Jason Christensen – John Carter
Conservation Groups Oppose the Nature Conservancy’s Cattle Grazing Development Project on the Border of Canyonlands National Park
April 08, 2020
Melvin Goodman
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Body Politic
Eve Ottenberg
Amid Plague, Sanctions are Genocide
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
How China Learned About SARS-CoV-2 in the Weeks Before the Global Pandemic
Bill Quigley
Seven Disturbing Facts About COVID-19 in Louisiana
Joyce Nelson
BlackRock Takes Command
Geoff Dutton
Coronavirus as Metaphor: It’s Not Peanuts
Richard Moser
From Strike Wave to General Strike
Gary Leupp
Could COVID-19 Kill Capitalism?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
Corona, Capital and Class in Germany
Tom Crofton
Aspirational vs Pragmatic: Why My Radicalness is Getting More Radical
Steve Kelly
Montana Ballot Access Decision Suppresses Green Party Voters
Jacob Hornberger
Muhammad Ali’s Fight Against the Pentagon
Phil Mattera
The Rap Sheets of the Big Ventilator Producers
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19?
Rick Baum
When “Moderate” Democrats Lead the Ticket and Win, Down-Ballot Candidates Soon Suffer Losses
Jake Johnston
Tens of Millions Will Be Pushed into Poverty Amid COVID-Induced Recession
Kim C. Domenico
Healthy and Unhealthy Fear in the Age of Coronavirus
John W. Whitehead
Draconian Lockdown Powers and Civil Liberties
Binoy Kampmark
University Bailouts, Funding and Coronavirus
Luke Ruediger
BLM Timber Sale Increases Fire Risk, Reduces Climate Resilience and Harms Recreation
John Kendall Hawkins
Slavoj Žižek’s Virulent Polemic Against Covid-19, and Stuff!
Nyla Ali Khan
Finding Meaning and Purpose in Adversity
April 07, 2020
Joel McCleary – Mark Medish
Paradigm Shift by Pandemic
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail