Killer robots aren’t science fiction. A push to ban them is growing

What is the news?

For the first time, a majority of the 125 nations that belong to an agreement called the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons said that they wanted curbs on killer robots.

But they were opposed by members that are developing these weapons, most notably the United States and Russia.

What is the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons?

The United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention was concluded at Geneva in 1980 and entered into force in 1983.

Purpose: It is a framework of rules that ban or restrict weapons considered to cause unnecessary, unjustifiable and indiscriminate suffering such as incendiary explosives, blinding lasers and booby traps that don’t distinguish between fighters and civilians. 

The convention covers land mines, booby traps, incendiary devices, blinding laser weapons and clearance of explosive remnants of war. The convention has no provisions for killer robots.

​​India has ratified this Convention.

What are killer robots?

Opinions differ on an exact definition of Killer robots, but they are widely considered to be weapons that make decisions with little or no human involvement. Rapid improvements in robotics, AI and image recognition are making such armaments possible.

Why are killer robots being developed?

To war planners, killer robots a) offer the promise of keeping soldiers out of harm’s way and b) help make decisions faster than a human would by giving more battlefield responsibilities to autonomous systems like pilotless drones and driverless tanks that independently decide when to strike.

What are objections against killer robots?

Critics argue that it is morally wrong to assign lethal decision-making to machines, regardless of technological sophistication. This is because machines do not differentiate between an adult from a child, a fighter from a civilian, a hostile combatant from a wounded or surrendering soldier.

Why are the US and Russia opposing curbs on Killer Robots?

Russia: It insists that any decisions on limits on Killer Robots must be unanimous — in effect giving opponents a veto.

United States: It argues that existing international laws are sufficient and that banning autonomous weapons technology would be premature. Instead, the US has proposed a non-binding “code of conduct” for use of killer robots.

Source: This post is based on the articleKiller robots aren’t science fiction. A push to ban them is growingpublished in Indian Express on 19th Dec 2021.

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