World Bulletin / News Desk
Governments on Tuesday began holding the first talks to ever focus primarily on the use of "lethal autonomous robots" in modern warfare, as the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva initiated a four-day session on the subject.
Two robotics experts, Prof. Ronald Arkin and Prof. Noel Sharkey, are due to lead the debate on the use of so called 'killer robots' in the first round of the discussion which is set to continue in November.
Prof. Sharkey, who will argue his stance against the use of such machines, told the BBC "autonomous weapons systems cannot be guaranteed to predictably comply with international law".
"Nations aren't talking to each other about this, which poses a big risk to humanity," he added.
Prof. Arkin, on the other hand, said, "I support a moratorium until that end is achieved, but I do not support a ban at this time," whle pointing out his belief that the robots "could potentially exercise greater care" in deciding whether or not a human is a threat.
The meeting, which is being chaired by French ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, has attracted the attention of critics worldwide.
"Killer robots would threaten the most fundamental of rights and principles in international law," Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch, told reporters.
"We don't see how these inanimate machines could understand or respect the value of life, yet they would have the power to determine when to take it away," he warned, adding his belief that the only answer is a preemptive ban on fully autonomous weapons.
1997 Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, who was awarded for her campaign for a land-mine ban treaty, said "it's totally unconscionable that human beings think that it's OK to cede the of power and life over other humans to machinery."
"If we don't inject a moral and ethical discussion into this, we won't control warfare," she added.
Although killer robots do not currently exist, advances in technology are bringing them closer to reality and scientists are already in the testing phase. The closest technology currently available are predator drones, which were introduced by the US and have caused great controversy over the deaths of civilians along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Samsung's sentry robot, which is used in South Korea, also has the ability to spot unusual activity, talk to intruders and shoot under the control of a human. The Phalanx gun system used by US Navy ships can also search for enemy fire and destroy incoming projectiles without need for a human controller.
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