"Killer Robot" experts grapple with future face of warfare

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More than 60 states are meeting on the issue at the UN in Geneva. Photo: UN

A key meeting on so-called killer robots – otherwise known as lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) – began on Monday at the UN in Geneva.

More than 60 states and dozens of experts have headed to the Swiss city with a view to shaping international policy on the machines, which don't yet exist, but which critics say will be capable of identifying and killing targets without any human involvement.

One of the challenges participants have is deciding on a strict legal definition for LAWS so that those who intend to use them can be held accountable.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Though "killer robot" technology is still on the drawing board, Michael Biontino believes that now's the time to talk about it.

Germany’s Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament at the UN in Geneva is heading up a meeting of experts on lethal autonomous weapon systems, also known as LAWS.

For him, there are a lot of issues at stake.

"Is it ethical to have decisions about life and death being taken by a machine… what would be the consequences of LAWS on regional and strategic stability… would they have a stabilising or destabilising effect; what are the likely scenarios for the deployment of lethal autonomous weapon systems? We will have to discuss that."

Many states have yet to take up national positions on the weapon systems, primarily because they don't exist.

And the Geneva discussion is only the second time a significant number of states have met on the issue.

But Ambassador Biontino believes that the week-long conference will help to highlight the major legal, ethical, security and transparency issues raised by the technology.

Ultimately, this could result in a ban on autonomous weapons, similar to that taken against blinding lasers by UN member states in 1995.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1’09″



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