Banning killer robots

A recent article in The Conversation by Harvard University law lecturer Bonnie Docherty argues that we should ban fully autonomous weapons (“killer robots”) as they are incapable of respect for human dignity.

Docherty, who has co-authored a report into the topic for Human Rights Watch, argues that killer robots risk fundamentally undermining the rules of war and effectively dehumanising armed conflict. According to Docherty, Robots by their very nature are unable to show compassion for other human beings, yet this is “an emotion that inspires people to minimise suffering and death”.

Killer robots are also incapable of recognising other human beings as human beings:

“these weapons could not truly understand the value of an individual life or the significance of its loss. Their algorithms would translate human lives into numerical values. By making lethal decisions based on such algorithms, they would reduce their human targets – whether civilians or soldiers – to objects, undermining their human dignity”.

As such, Docherty argues in favour of United Nations ban on fully autonomous weapons. Representatives from more than 70 nations will gather at the UN in Geneva later this month for a Convention on Conventional Weapons, and it is hoped that the delegates will agree to negotiating a ban.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | autonomous weapons systems, human dignity, military ethics, war

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