Autonomous weapons, or commonly known as killer robots, are a rising phenomenon among a number of governments today. Essentially, the name killer robots speaks for itself. These weapons are designed to operate and selectively fire at targets without any human intervention. Nations such as the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, and Israel are developing and deploying these weapons for military operations. As technological advances have become persistently manifest in medicine, technology, and communication, these killer weapons have become the latest military breakthrough.
Undoubtedly, one of the leading incentives for governments to finance and develop these killer robots is to effectively reduce the number of human casualties during wartime. According to one roboticist, “in the interest of saving human lives, scientists have a responsibility to look for effective ways to reduce man’s inhumanity to man through technology….” However, these killer robots have raised major concerns and opposition from the Human Rights Watch and other non-governmental organizations. In fact, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is an international coalition working to prevent further development and use of these weapons.
The Human Rights Watch and other NGOs oppose these killer robots because they doubt that these weapons will be able to meet legal requirements. These organizations believe killer robots will result in conflicts that have more violations in the laws of war. Since these weapons are able to operate without human discretion, they pose a higher risk of malfunctioning and targeting civilians. Also, these weapons are less likely to use an appropriate and proportional amount of force, as required under the Geneva Conventions. “Scientists question the notion that robotic weapons could meet legal requirements … or have the functionality required for accurate target identification, situational awareness or decisions regarding the proportional use of force.” Evidently, these weapons have created a significant amount of controversy among the international community. Are these killer robots too dangerous for governments to be endorsing? Or are they simply another inevitable technological development?
Human Rights Watch, Killer Robots Keeping Control of Autonomous Weapons
UN News Centre, UN meeting targets ‘killer robots’
I believe that these “killer robots” are simply another inevitable technological development. When a government weighs the pros and cons of this type of technology, I believe they will weigh the benefits heavily. It is certainly in our governments’ interest to limit human casualties and deploy robots to take their place. However, we have to make sure that we are confident in the robots’ ability to take out their targets effectively and efficiently without harming civilians. As far as making sure that the robots are using the appropriate amount of force, I highly doubt that governments are concerned. In times of war, governments will justify their actions and view it as a necessity.
Although the robots may not be perfect right now, I believe that they will get progressively better. With the war in the Middle East, it is in the United States’ interest to make sure these robots use the appropriate amount of force without harming civilians so that they can win the hearts and minds of the people there.