Autonomous military robots should be banned, group says (video)

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots tells CNET why lethal machines must remain under human control, for humanity's sake.

Luke Westaway
Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
2 min read

Watch this: Stop Killer Robots Campaign

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots kicked off its protest against self-powered military machines earlier this week.

CNET caught up with the campaign organizers to hear why they want killer 'bots banned -- play the video above to hear their reasoning and to witness the kinds of death-dealing devices the organization is trying to stop.

One thing I wanted to know is why the campaign is so averse to autonomous robots. As Noel Sharkey, expert roboticist and professor, told me, however, this movement is only about putting the brakes on autonomous killing machines.

"We're not inhibiting autonomous robots," Sharkey told me. "My vacuum cleaner is an autonomous robot."

"The only thing we're trying to stop," Sharkey continues, "is the kill function. What we don't want are weapons that -- once launched -- can engage targets and kill them without human intervention."

The first wave of lethal bots won't be walking machines like the Terminator, Sharkey told me, "because they would fall over all the time." More chillingly, the campaign expects that the first autonomous killing machines will look just like existing devices -- drones, tanks, and submarines. The only difference: no human pilots.

The campaign is concerned that these machines, devoid of human emotion and judgment, will lead to increased civilian casualties and plunge us into murky territory when it comes to the rules of war. When no human is involved in pulling the trigger, where does blame for military action lie?

Do you think autonomous killer robots should be banned? Or are they an inevitable part of the future of warfare? Watch the video, and let me know in the comments.