A call for engineers to stop autonomous killing machines now.

Posted on 12 March 2013 by nsharkey

In this month’s ‘The Engineer’, a magazine for engineers, I published an article calling upon engineers to help with a ban on autonomous lethal weapons. They titled my article “say no to killer robots” which was more direct than my own title of “stop autonomous killing machines now”.


This is a call to engineers to stand up and demand the prohibition of autonomous lethal targeting by robots. I ask this of engineers because you are the ones who know just how limited machines can be when it comes to making judgments; judgments that only humans should make; judgments about who to kill and when to kill them.

The aim was to raise awareness of the issues within the engineering community that will be responsible for the development of lethal robots. There are many people with integrity in this community who care deeply about issues involving the killing of innocent civilians. But they might not aware that the artifacts they are working on could be used as autonomous weapons.

The bottom line is that weapon systems should not be allowed to make decisions to select human targets and engage them with lethal force. We need to act now to stop the kill function from being automated. We have already prohibited chemical weapons, biological weapons, blinding lasers, cluster munitions and antipersonnel landmines.

We now need a new international treaty to pre-emptively ban fully autonomous weapons.

I call on you to sign our call for a ban at http://icrac.net/ before too many countries develop the technology and we venture down a path from which there is no return.”

ICRAC also calls for the same commitment from Computer Scientists, roboticists and professionals from related computing and engineering disciplines.

Read the full story – Say no to killer robots

Noel SharkeyPhD, DSc FIET, FBCS CITP FRIN FRSA is Professor of AI and Robotics and Professor of Public Engagement at the University of Sheffield and was an EPSRC Senior Media Fellow (2004-2010).

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