November 15, 2017

Should we fear killer robots?

By Paul Scharre

Physicist Stephen Hawking recently warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence and "powerful autonomous weapons." Autonomous technology is racing forward, but international discussions on managing the potential risks are already underway.

This week, nations enter the fourth year of international discussions at the United Nations on lethal autonomous weapons, or what some have called "killer robots." The UN talks are oriented on future weapons, but simple automated weapons to shoot down incoming missiles have been widely used for decades.

The same computer technology that powers self-driving cars could be used to power intelligent, autonomous weapons.

Recent advances in machine intelligence are enabling more advanced weapons that could hunt for targets on their own. Earlier this year, Russian arms manufacturer Kalashnikov announced it was developing a "fully automated combat module" based on neural networks that could allow a weapon to "identify targets and make decisions."

Whether or not Kalashnikov's claims are true, the underlying technology that will enable self-targeting machines is coming.

Read the full op-ed in CNN.

  • Reports
    • April 28, 2021
    Principles for the Combat Employment of Weapon Systems with Autonomous Functionalities

    Introduction An international debate over lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) has been under way for nearly a decade.1 In 2012, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued for...

    By Robert O. Work

  • Podcast
    • March 25, 2021
    Are ‘killer robots’ the future of warfare?

    Paul Scharre joins host Suzanna Kianpour to discuss the technology, fears and even potential advantages of developing autonomous weapons. Listen to the full conversation from...

    By Paul Scharre

  • Podcast
    • January 16, 2020
    Episode 26 - Paul Scharre

    What are autonomous weapons systems? How are they used in modern warfare? And how do we strengthen international cooperation? In this episode, the Director of the Technology a...

    By Paul Scharre

  • Podcast
    • January 15, 2020
    Robots That Kill

    By Paul Scharre

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia