Feeds

Human Rights Watch proposes new laws of robotics

Wants autonomous 'bots banned before Predators become Terminators

Security for virtualized datacentres

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a document titled Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots that argues development of autonomous weapons must be stopped because it represents a threat to human rights.

The document defines three types of autonomous weapons, namely:

  • Human-in-the-Loop Weapons: Robots that can select targets and deliver force only with a human command;
  • Human-on-the-Loop Weapons: Robots that can select targets and deliver force under the oversight of a human operator who can override the robots’ actions; and
  • Human-out-of-the-Loop Weapons: Robots that are capable of selecting targets and delivering force without any human input or interaction.

Only the third type does not exist today, the document says, but adds they are in development and that “Many countries employ weapons defense systems that are programmed to respond automatically to threats from incoming munitions.”

HRW thinks autonomous weapons present three big problems, because “By eliminating human involvement in the decision to use lethal force in armed conflict, fully autonomous weapons would undermine other, non-legal protections for civilians.”

The group worries that “robots would not be restrained by human emotions and the capacity for compassion, which can provide an important check on the killing of civilians.” That makes them ideal for “repressive dictators seeking to crack down on their own people without fear their troops would turn on them.”

Killer bots would also increase conflicts, the group argues, as by minimising human casualties among aggressors “it would also make it easier for political leaders to resort to force” and “The likelihood of armed conflict could thus increase, while the burden of war would shift from combatants to civilians caught in the crossfire.”

The third concern surrounds accountability, as it's hard to apply humanitarian law to a robot or its programmer. Existing laws and remedies would therefore struggle to deliver “meaningful retributive justice”.

Another issue is whether autonomous weapons would always act within the bounds of the laws of war, which insist that combatants distinguish between the civilian population and other combatants, while only directing force at military targets. “International humanitarian law also prohibits disproportionate attacks, in which civilian harm outweighs military benefits,” the document notes, later expressing doubts that artificial intelligence technologies will be able to make these kind of judgements effectively, or at all.

The document proposes “ an international legally binding instrument” to ban development, use and manufacture of autonomous weapons, plus local laws to do the same thing.

HRW even goes so far as to say that the global community should “Commence reviews of technologies and components that could lead to fully autonomous weapons” and nip them in the bud. Scientists working on related technologies, the document suggests, should be bound by “ … a professional code of conduct governing the research and development of autonomous robotic weapons, especially those capable of becoming fully autonomous, in order to ensure that legal and ethical concerns about their use in armed conflict are adequately considered at all stages of technological development.” ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.