The year is 2050. A fighter jet roars across the sky, zeroing in on targets in enemy territory somewhere in the Middle East. But the targets are really a group of farmers holding hoes and rakes, which the jet identifies as guns. Within minutes, it fires a series of rockets, killing all of them. The jet is pilotless, and the aircraft is not being directed from a base. It registers its operation as successful.
The prospect of such scenarios has led some activists and human rights groups to call for a complete ban on so-called "killer robots" — advanced artificial intelligence weaponry that they believe could one day blanket battlefields and make life and death decisions independent of human direction.
Representatives of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots gathered at two events held at the United Nations on Tuesday to advance this campaign. The events, a press conference and a side meeting of the General Assembly, came three months after more than 1,000 prominent scientists, robotics experts, and researchers — including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk — signed a letter opposing the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems, as this technology is officially known.
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