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Why Is The United Nations Warning The World About ‘Killer Robots’?

It's the latest potential threat made possible by the rise of AI. Why Is The United Nations Warning The World About ‘Killer Robots’? Shutterstock

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If you’re a sci-fi buff, you might’ve seen a flick in which humanity is threatened by a race of malevolent androids. If that sounds scary, you might want to brace yourself.

The latest AI threat

While the breakneck speed of advancement in the realm of artificial intelligence might be pretty cool on the surface, there are tons of potential risks lurking below. From massive job losses to the spread of misinformation, we’ve all seen some of the grim forecasts of how AI stands to fundamentally reshape our world.

But there’s an even more direct concern that none other than the United Nations is now warning us about: “Killer robots.”

Of course, it might not be exactly what you’re imagining. As the UN General Assembly first advised in November, the expanding capability of AI means that there is likely to be a new crop of autonomous weapons that can identify and eliminate targets even without input from humans.

An expert’s opinion

While “killer robots” is a broad term with no concrete parameters, Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic lecturer Bonnie Docherty said that the key factor is whether a particular weapon has the capability to make life-and-death decisions on its own.

The designation “depends on specific factors, such as the degree of human control, but these weapons show the dangers of autonomy in military technology,” she said.

The subject is fraught with ethical landmines, she said, including its ability to “dehumanize violence and boil humans down to numerical values.”

More objective concerns surround whether killer robots could even distinguish between military targets and innocent civilians.

Docherty concluded that a binding international treaty is the only way to stave off the threat. Hopefully, the UN’s warning will help convince adversarial nations to come together for the good of us all.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee March 1st, 2024
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