Ban ‘Killer Robots’ Before It’s Too Late, Says Human Rights Watch


With a 50-page report outlining “concerns about fully autonomous weapons, which would inherently lack human qualities that provide legal and non-legal checks on the killing of civilians”, Human Rights Watch has called for governments of the world to pre-emptively ban what they are calling ‘killer robots’, fully autonomous killing machines.

Jointly with the International Human Rights Clinic, the two groups are calling for an international treaty that would “absolutely prohibit the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons”. Although these fully autonomous weapons do not yet exist, as Human Rights Watch expresses in its report - titled matter-of-factly ‘Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots’ - “technology is moving in the direction of their development and precursors are already in use.” The United States, it says, is the closest to producing the technology needed to make ‘complete autonomy for robots a reality’, with robotic experts reportedly predicting that we could see true ‘killer robots’ in as short a timeframe as 20 to 30 years.

“Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far,” says Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch, Steve Goose. “Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimising civilian deaths and injuries. Action is needed now, before killer robots cross the line from science fiction to feasibility.”

Richard Birkett