Pitted against the glacial pace of the UN's discussion process, activists hoping for an international ban on killer robots have repeatedly been left fuming and frustrated.
Pitted against each other in the battlefield, lethal autonomous weapons systems — or LAWS — could in short order cause "absolute devastation," according to one of those activists.
That scenario, says the activist, Prof. Noel Sharkey of the University of Sheffield, isn't as farfetched as it might have been even five years ago, when he helped found the Coalition to Stop Killer Robots, a group of 64 NGOs dedicated to the cause.
And it's that belief that brings him and other academics, scientists and activists back to Geneva this week to yet more discussions involving more than 80 countries.
Their hope is that the UN process moves from discussion to formal direct negotiations by next year to produce a pre-emptive treaty banning killer robots by 2019.
The activists' chief concern isn't the military's delegation of tasks to autonomous machines — which can be useful in search and rescue and bomb disposal and myriad other tasks too dangerous or too onerous for humans.
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