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Top Professor: Autonomous Killer Robots In The Field

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Author Topic: Top Professor: Autonomous Killer Robots In The Field  (Read 41 times)
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« on: February 29, 2008, 03:00:23 pm »

Top Professor: Autonomous Killer Robots In The Field
Warns that new wave of weapons that "think for themselves" need to be stopped before it's too late
Steve Watson
Friday, Feb 29, 2008

 A top robotics expert has issued a stark warning that the world may be sleepwalking into a potentially lethal technocracy and has called for safeguards to be put into place now, in order to counter such a scenario unfolding within the next ten years.

Noel Sharkey, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield, spoke on the Alex Jones show of his fears that an international robot arms race has already begun and that the development and deployment of autonomous robots, machines that essentially make their own decisions, signals a shift towards a dangerous new phase of the technological age.

"We don't have to get too futuristic because the robots are already here, and are armed, especially the flying ones." Professor Sharkey commented. "The Predators and the Reapers now, you must know about the Reapers that are carrying fourteen Hellfire missiles."

"And then we've got the first deployment on the Talon Sword robots in Iraq, last year in December, and they are all armed with Grenade Launchers and that kind of thing."

The Professor explained his concerns regarding a 25-year plan to spend as £12 billion on robotic air, land and sea systems published last year by the US Department of Defense.

"What I am worried about is that if you read all the latest US documents and the latest road map, which was published in December for 2007 through 2032, what they want to do now is have autonomous robots, and that means there is no human in the loop. At the moment they are flying the Predators over Iraq from the Nevada Desert, over 7000 miles away. But now they want to take the human out of the loop altogether, and that's where it gets really scary."

"If you have an autonomous robot then it's going to make decisions who to kill, when to kill and where to kill them. The scary thing is that the reason this has to happen is because of mission complexity and also so that when there's a problem with communications you can send a robot in with no communication and it will decide who to kill, and that is really worrying to me." Professor Sharkey added.

The Professor outlined his fears earlier this week in a speech at a conference on the ethics of unmanned military systems at the Royal United Services Institute, a defense think tank.

"The one thing I try to get across to policy makers is that there is this kind of mythical artificial intelligence, every time killer robots are mentioned people start talking about Terminator and 'Skynet' and all this stuff that's really fairytales, and if they were like that it would be better, because what you've got here is like a washing machine. This is a dumb stupid machine, and then you are going to give it the decision to kill people, it's just ridiculous." Sharkey told the Alex Jones show.

"One of the fundamental laws for just war, if you can imagine there is a just war, is that any weapon system or any individual must be able to discriminate between civilians and soldiers. There is no sensing equipment on robots at present that can make that discrimination."

(Article continues below)

The Professor pointed to the fact that South Korea already has armed autonomous robots deployed in the demilitarized zone all along the border between the South and the North of the country, that are designed to shoot to kill.

The sentry robots are built by Samsung. Once mounted, the robo-gun uses cameras and pattern-recognition software to autonomously classify vehicles, trees, and human beings at up to 1.25 miles—and then shoot them with a built-in, 5.5mm machine gun.

Watch the robots in action in this South Korean promo video, and remember these things make their own decisions:

Professor Sharkey warned that in the future such autonomous weapons could easily be used by law enforcement officials in cites, pointing out that the South Koreans are already planning to have a fully armed autonomous robot police force in their cities.

"There's nothing wrong with the robots, they are just machines, it's who uses them. I am surprised, I am waiting for the first moment now to see when robots are going to be equipped with water cannons for strike breaking, and for riot breaking."

"It would be quite easy, you could imagine, tomorrow morning, I could start a project with the police, which I am not going to do, but within a couple of months we could have a bunch of big robots armed with water cannons, you could have police in tall buildings with video screens looking down on the population and rounding them up."

"It's all very well having a democracy and things, but the whole thing can shift in a technocracy.. You could easily have a coup, you could have all sorts of things like that."

The Professor is currently in talks with the groups that were successful in ultimately getting land mines banned internationally to try and push for a similar ruling on all autonomous weaponry.

Describing the move towards such weaponry as "mission creep" the Professor said:

"We don't have international discussion at the moment, we have countries developing it as they want, I am worried about sleepwalking into this, we're not making the policies, the policies are making themselves."

"This will creep in step by step and you won't know that it is happening. It's not like nuclear, where there's either a nuclear bomb or not. One of the big things about an autonomous robot, who is responsible when it kills people all over the place?"

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