Ask some technologists, and they’ll say that lethal autonomous weapons—machines that can select and destroy targets without human intervention—are the next step in modern warfare, a natural evolution beyond today’s remotely operated drones and unmanned ground vehicles. Others will decry such systems as an abomination and a threat to international humanitarian law (IHL) or the law of armed conflict.
The U.N. Human Rights Council has, for now, called for a moratorium on the development of killer robots. But activist groups like the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) want to see this class of weapon completely banned. The question is whether it is too early—or too late—for a blanket prohibition. Indeed, depending on how one defines “autonomy,” such systems are already in use.
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