Thursday, October 15, 2015

UN delay brings fears of "robot wars"

War, like everything else, is changing.

Currently, there are concerns over "lethal autonomous weapons systems," colloquially termed "killer robots." The United Nations has made movements to ban such new weapons of war, but for many the organization just isn't moving quickly enough. Critics assert that further delays on a ban could "open the door for robot wars."

“There is indeed a danger now that [the process] may get stuck,” said Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “A lot of money is going into development and people will want a return on their investment. If there is not a pre-emptive ban on the high-level autonomous weapons then once the genie is out of the bottle it will be extremely difficult to get it back in.”

There is concern from a few nations that such a ban might eliminate current, not mention highly effective, weapons systems. Examples of these include the U.S. Navy's Phalanx guns and Israel's Iron Dome. There are also counterarguments that autonomous war machines actually make war more humane by affording precision strikes, thereby minimizing civilian casualties and other collateral damage. Naturally what caught my eye in the above linked article were the examples of the more jaw-dropping war machines already in operation.

South Korea has the SGR-1, a sentry robot that patrols the DMZ. It has thermal imaging and motion sensors to detect infiltrators but it is also armed with machine guns in order to deal with interlopers when found. The SGR-1 is currently operated by humans but does have an automatic mode to fire independently if needed.

Israel has deployed robotic machine gun turrets along the Gaza Strip. These turrets autonomously locate targets...and then fire.

The United States has multiple drone platforms, but among the most sophisticated is the X-47B aircraft. During a test last April, it became the first unmanned aircraft to complete midair refueling. It can also take off from an aircraft carrier on its own just fine. The UK also has a fighter jet called Taranis that flies "with almost no need for operator input."

 Beware the ides, I suppose.

I understand and share the concern over these matters. However, I wonder just what kind of good a ban will do. It has not done much to eliminate land mines or cluster munitions, not when the world's largest military (the United States) still uses them. Other nations likely do as well. I go back to the genie reference in the quote. The genie has been out of the bottle for a long time, pretty much since the first drone moved on its own. The development of war machines is always on the move and I just don't know what can be done to stop until people want it stopped. I mean really stopped.

Why the pic of the UFO? Well you know that's where the technology came from for these autonomous weapons systems, right? It's all reverse-engineered from the recovered wreckage of crashed alien spacecraft.

That's the story, anyway.

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