Engineers strongly favour a total ban on killer robots

Posted on 01 May 2013 by nsharkey

Following on from my recent article in The Engineer magazine asking engineers to say “no” to killer robots, they conducted a poll to find out what engineers thought. They wanted to know if they supported our campaign to ban killer robots. We at ICRAC, with a number of other NGOs, are calling for a new treaty to prohibit the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons: weapons that once launched will select targets and attack them without full human supervision.

The results were totally clear cut with an overwhelming 76% of engineers voting that there should be an unequivocal ban on developing ‘killer robots’.

The next-largest group, 14 per cent, had a similar view. They voted that attack logisitics could be autonomous as long as target selection remained under human control.

Ron Arkin from GIT was specifically mentioned in the poll. He has long opposed our call for a ban and has said that we should have a moratorium on autonomous weapons while control systems are being perfected. The engineers were not impressed – only 3% voted in his favour.

The other two options: autonomy for all systems other than weapons, or for armed forces being unwilling to adopt unmanned armed systems, failed to get more than 5 per cent of the vote. We would not mind autonomy for all systems other than weapons but feel happier that we got a resounding YES from The Engineer for our campaign. THANK YOU!

Read the full story in The Engineer

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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