You will be exterminated! Or perhaps not, if a group ofget their way. This week, the United Nations’ Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) is once again hearing from technical and legal experts .
The series ofis the latest step on the road to a potential treaty on lethal autonomous weapons.
Key to the discussions is the definition of “meaningful human control” – what type of human involvement is necessary in the process of killing someone on the battlefield? Delegates will also consider the possible challenges to International Humanitarian Law presented by lethal autonomous weapons.
Peter Asaro, at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society and a member of the International Committee on Robot Arms Control, is attending the talks. He says there is growing consensus that it is unacceptable for robots to kill people without human supervision.
Speaking from the first day of the meetings, Asaro reports that Croatia and Japan have made strong statements on this point. In a document outliningahead of the meeting, Japan wrote: “Japan’s Ministry of Defence has no plan to develop robots with humans out of the loop, which may be capable of committing murder.”
Asaro believes that, such as South Korea, whose statements were somewhat cautious at previous delegations, have become more outspoken in their opposition to autonomous weaponry.
“I think there is consensus around the fact that in its most extreme form you can’t just have weapons out there without any kind of human supervision,” says Asaro. “But there is still disagreement and work to be done on how do we define this as a legal term.”
Meaningful human control, of course, has proved a notoriously difficult concept to agree on. “My own view is that the human should have meaningful control over an attack, whether in initiating it or being able to call it off after it has been initiated,” says Asaro.
Even the most hopeful estimates suggest that a treaty or formalised ban is at least a year or two away. But the fact that the UN agreed to continue discussing the issue last November has been seen as a sign by some that a resolution is on the horizon.
Meanwhile,released before the CCW meeting has argued that fully autonomous weapons would make it difficult to attribute legal responsibility for deaths caused by such systems.
As the report notes: “A variety of legal obstacles make it likely that humans associated with the use or production of these weapons – notably operators and commanders, programmers and manufacturers – would escape liability for the suffering caused by fully autonomous weapons.”
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