UN expert urges moratorium on 'killer robots' (Update)

May 30, 2013

Nations should agree to a moratorium on developing robots for war that can function autonomously before it is too late to stop their use, a U.N. human rights expert warned Thursday.

U.N. special rapporteur Christof Heyns urged a temporary freeze on producing or using so-called killer robots, saying it would give nations time to think through the implications of creating them while "the genie is still in the bottle" technologically.

Programming machines to kill without humans making decisions could encourage more wars and make it more difficult to hold anyone accountable for war crimes, he told reporters in Geneva.

"Time is of the essence," he said of the need to decide now on how to use the robots, before they become a practical reality. "Trying to stop technology is a bit like trying to stop time itself—it moves on."

Heyns said the technology is quickly emerging and nearly available now that could lend machines the power to autonomously kill humans after "the turn of a switch," but lack the ability to make fine distinctions according to international humanitarian law. "We are pretty close," he said.

In a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Heyns urged nations "to declare and implement national moratoria on the production, assembly, transfer, acquisition, deployment and use" of the robots to give time to develop a global framework for their use.

Another big danger of developing these kinds of robots, he said, is that it will make it easier for nations to go to war because of the increasing detachment between people and the decision to kill.

Explore further: An android opera: Japan's Shibuya plots new era of robot music

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rights group launches campaign to ban 'killer robots'

Apr 23, 2013

A global rights group launched a campaign on Tuesday to ban Terminator-style "killer robots" amid fears the rise of drone warfare could lead to machines with the power to make their own decisions about killing ...

Ban 'killer robots,' rights group urges

Nov 19, 2012

Hollywood-style robots able to shoot people without permission from their human handlers are a real possibility and must be banned before governments start deploying them, campaigners warned Monday.

Call to boycott killer robots

Aug 21, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Engineers should stop working on killer robots and kick the habit of military funding, a leading Australian applied ethicist has said.

Recommended for you

Japan toymaker unveils tiny talking, singing humanoid

Oct 15, 2014

Japanese toymaker Tomy on Wednesday unveiled a multi-talented humanoid robot, named "Robi jr.," which can converse using some 1,000 phrases and belt out about 50 songs, as well as move its limbs and head.

Can we teach robots right from wrong?

Oct 14, 2014

From performing surgery and flying planes to babysitting kids and driving cars, today's robots can do it all. With chatbots such as Eugene Goostman recently being hailed as "passing" the Turing test, it appears robots are ...

User comments : 0