Blog: Foreign Policy

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November 21, 2012

Op-Ed: The Trouble with Killer Robots

Posted by Cara Solomon

Since its release on Monday, the Clinic’s joint report with Human Rights Watch on “killer robots” has been attracting quite a bit of attention. Check out articles in The Guardian, as well as segments on Democracy Now and the BBC.

Bonnie also wrote an excellent Op-Ed about the issue for Foreign Policy magazine, which is reprinted in full below.

The Trouble with Killer Robots

Imagine a mother who sees her children playing with toy guns as a military force approaches their village. Terrified, she sprints toward the scene, yelling at them to hurry home. A human soldier would recognize her fear and realize that her actions are harmless. A robot, unable to understand human intentions, would observe only figures, guns, and rapid movement. While the human soldier would probably hold fire, the robot might shoot the woman and her children.

Despite such obvious risks to civilians, militaries are already planning for a day when sentry robots stand guard at borders, ready to identify intruders and to kill them, without an order from a human soldier. Unmanned aircraft, controlled only by pre-programmed algorithms, might carry up to 4,500 pounds of bombs that they could drop without real time authorization from commanders.

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