Addressing Killer Robots: Next Steps – Side Event

October 21st, 2016
DNP education

    The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots held a side event in New York on the next steps of addressing killer robots on 14 October, 2016 during 71st Session of the General Assembly First Committee. Three experts discussed important issues concerning autonomous weapons and why they are such a danger. They were: Mary Wareham from the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, Professor Stuart Russell from the University of California at Berkley, and Mr. Steve Goose from Human Rights Watch. The side event was moderated by Professor Matthew Bolton of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, and an introduction was given by the President-designate of the Convention and Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Review Conference Ambassador Tehmina Janjua of Pakistan.

    Ms. Mary Wareham started by addressing the CCW Review Conference that will take place in December of this year. Calling for support in the CCW for a pre-emptive ban on the development and use of autonomous weapons, Ms. Wareham defined killer robots as future weapons that will be able to select and engage targets without human control. Ms. Wareham noted that the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is not looking to ban a specific weapon, but to ban a future weapon capabilities.

    The second expert Professor Stuart Russell explained that a common argument for killer robots is that these weapons would be aware of their commands and would be unable to create their own military campaigns. Professor Russell, however, explained that autonomous weapons use algorithms like in computer chess games. They would choose what to capture based on a mathematical algorithm and not based on logic and rational. Concerns noted by the artificial intelligence community in regards to killer robots include compliance with International Humanitarian Law, mistakes made by the system, and ethical considerations. Professor Russell went on to explain that this technology is preferable for some States because the cost of using autonomous weapons is much cheaper than using a trained army, but like biological and chemical weapons, killer robots should also be banned from future use.

    Lastly, Mr. Steve Goose called for four weeks in the CCW for a pre-negotiations phase on killer robots that will result in an agreement for formal negotiations aimed at a pre-emptive prohibition of production of autonomous weapons. Mr. Goose ended by praising the United States on developing a policy on killer robots and called other States to do the same.

Drafted by Kathryn Smart