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November 20, 2012

Humans Rights Groups Want to Stop the Robo-pocalypse before It Happens

Alfred Einstein once famously said “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” With the direction of the military these days, from drone strikes to advanced military robots, there are some who believe that World War III might be fought with intelligent machines, like the ones seen in the Terminator movie franchise.

Of course, we all know how well that turned out. Perhaps that is why the international human rights group Human Rights Watch wants to make a pre-emptive strike at Skynet’s babies. The group recently drafted a 50-page report outlining its case against intelligent, weaponized robots called “Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots.”

While the title of the report may sound like a smashing sci-fi epic, it is actually a discussion of the danger that these future metal soldiers could pose to civilians in the case of an armed conflict. “There’s nothing in artificial intelligence or robotics that could discriminate between a combatant and a civilian,” Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, argues. “It would be impossible to tell the difference between a little girl pointing an ice cream at a robot, or someone pointing a rifle at it.”

While the killer robots of the Terminator (and the Matrix and countless other movie and TV franchises) may see as far off as faster-than-light spaceships and time-traveling police boxes, some experts say that battledroids could show their metal faces in less than three decades.

Check out the video below for an argument about the topic of robots on the battlefield, and read more of Human Rights Watch’s thoughts here.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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