The Real Robot Threat.

In the fall of 1989, the peoples of Eastern Europe rose up against their Communist oppressors. The tyrants ruling these nations had no moral compunction about shooting their subjects down, but fortunately, they couldn’t count on their armed forces to do it. So the Iron Curtain fell, and two years later, even the mighty Soviet Union was brought down when the Red Army, sent into Moscow, refused the orders of those attempting to brutally reinstate Stalinist rule.

But imagine what might have occurred had those soldiers been not human beings but robots, lacking in any sympathy or humanity, ready, willing, and able to reliably massacre anyone the authorities chose to be their targets.

This is the threat posed by the emerging technology known as “autonomous weapons.”…………….

This danger is illustrated by a recent paper written by a committee of artificial-intelligence experts, which included both strong advocates for autonomous weaponry and some with more cautious attitudes. Reaching a compromise, the group proposed that:

States should consider adopting a 5-year, renewable moratorium on the development, deployment, transfer, and use of anti-personnel lethal autonomous weapon systems . . .

The moratorium would not apply to:

  • Anti-vehicle or anti-materiel weapons

  • Non-lethal anti-personnel weapons

  • Research on ways of improving autonomous weapon technology to reduce non-combatant harm in future anti-personnel lethal autonomous weapon systems

  • Weapons that find, track, and engage specific individuals whom a human has decided should be engaged within a limited predetermined period of time and geographic region.

One cannot help but note that most of the applications called out to be excluded from the moratorium are those directed against civilians, rather than opposing armed forces.

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