Killer robots are autonomous weapon systems that can select and attack a target without meaningful human control. This implies that the weapon system can use lethal force without direct instructions from a human. A common misunderstanding is that killer robots are the same as armed drones. With current drones there is still a person who selects targets remotely and decides to attack. Although killer robots do not exist yet, there are precursors pointing to a clear trend of increasing autonomy.
A weapon system that autonomously makes decisions about selecting and attacking targets raises many legal as well as security concerns. For example, can a killer robot comply with the laws of war and distinguish between a civilian and a soldier? Who is responsible if something goes wrong? What happens when dictators or terrorists get their hands on these weapons?
Perhaps more importantly, the rise of killer robots raises obvious ethical concerns. At PAX we are convinced that killer robots are ethically unacceptable. A machine should never make decisions about life and death; this choice cannot simply be reduced to an algorithm. Outsourcing this decision is outsourcing morality.
PAX therefore works towards a preventive ban on the development, production and deployment of killer robots. We do this together with over 160 other organizations within the global Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which PAX co-founded in 2013. Through this coalition, we are working to ban fully autonomous weapons and thereby retain meaningful human control over the use of force.
PAX-er Frank Slijper will tell us more about the recent developments of killer robots and the campaign to stop them during his online webinar.
About the speaker
With a background in economics, Frank has been researching and curbing the world of weapons for over 25 years. Together with fellow organizations at national and international levels, he conducts research and puts pressure on national governments, the European Union and the United Nations on behalf of PAX. In recent years, much of his work has been focused on the fight against the development of lethal autonomous weapons – or killer robots.