Killer Robots: Be Prepared

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Lethal weapons – killer robots – are coming. Now the UN is looking at how to respond. We’ll get the latest.

A Northrop Grumman unnamed X-47B UCAS at its unveiling. (Courtesy  Northrop Grumman )
A Northrop Grumman unnamed X-47B UCAS at its unveiling. (Courtesy Northrop Grumman )

It sounds like science fiction. Unfortunately, it’s not. Lethal autonomous weapons systems. Robot killers. They’re on the drawing board now. Their prototypes and early forms are beyond the drawing board. This week in Geneva, a big UN meeting is trying to keep the genie in the bottle. Human Rights Watch has launched its Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.  But technology and strategic competition are ratcheting up. Pushing toward weapons that target and kill on their own. If it sounds like a Terminator movie, it is. This hour On Point:  the rise and pushback.  Killer robots.
-- Tom Ashbrook


Patrick Tucker, technology editor at Defense One. Author of "The Naked Future." (@deftechpat)

Paul Scharre, director of the 20YY Warfare Initiative at the Center for a New American Security. Former US Special Assistant to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. (@paul_scharre)

Noel Sharkey, professor emeritus of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield. Chairman of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. (@StopTheRobotWar)

From Tom’s Reading List

Defense One: The Navy is Preparing To Launch Swarm Bots Out of Cannons — "The U.S. Navy will launch up to 30 synchronized drones within one minute, possibly from a single cannon-like device, in what marks a significant advance in robot autonomy. The drones, when airborne, will then unfold their wings and conduct a series of maneuvers and simulated missions with very little human guidance over the course of 90 minutes."

Center for A New American Security: Autonomous Weapons At The UN — "Autonomous weapons raise important questions about strategic stability. As multiple countries pursue these technologies, they could afect crisis dynamics, particularly in cases where states fear adversaries might attempt to deny them situational awareness."

The Guardian: Drone race will ultimately lead to a sanitized factory of slaughter — "Who in their right mind would give a powerful unmanned air force to a covert organisation with such a track record for unaccountable and illegal killing? The number of strikes in Pakistan has dramatically increased from 52 under George W Bush during his five years of conflict to 282 during Obama's three and a half-year watch. Obama is establishing a dangerous precedent that is, at best, legally questionable in a world where more than 50 countries are acquiring the technology."

Watch An Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UVG) Controlled By Iraqi Paramilitary

This program aired on April 16, 2015.


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