December 22, 2017

Why You Shouldn't Fear 'Slaughterbots'

By Paul Scharre

Killer drones in the hands of terrorists massacring innocents. Robotic weapons of mass destruction breeding chaos and fear. A video created by advocates of a ban on autonomous weapons would have you believe this dystopian future is right around the corner if we don’t act now. The short video, called “Slaughterbots,” was released last month coinciding with United Nations meetings on autonomous weapons. The UN meetings ended inconclusively, but the video is getting traction. It’s gotten over 2 million views and has sparked dozens of news stories. As a piece of propaganda, it works great. As a substantive argument for a ban on autonomous weapons, the video fails miserably.

Obviously, a world in which terrorists can unleash swarms of killer drones on innocent civilians would be terrible, but is the future the video depicts realistic? The movie’s slick production quality helps to gloss over its leaps of logic. It immerses the viewer in a dystopian nightmare, but let’s be clear: It’s very much science fiction.

The central premise of “Slaughterbots” is that in the future militaries will build autonomous micro-drones with shaped charges that can fly up to someone’s head and detonate an explosive, killing the person. In the film, these “slaughterbots” quickly fall into the hands of terrorists, resulting in mass killings worldwide.

Read the full op-ed in IEEE Spectrum.

  • Podcast
    • March 12, 2019
    CNAS Tech: How (Not) to Talk About AI & Lethality

    The U.S. Army recently announced its new Advanced Targeting & Lethality Automated System, or ATLAS program. The announcement generated concern and media headlines about the le...

    By Paul Scharre, Kara Frederick & Megan Lamberth

  • Video
    • September 18, 2018
    Will WWIII Be Fought By Robots?

    What will autonomous weapons mean for how future wars are waged and the loss of human lives in armed conflicts? That's the topic of a new book, Army of None: Autonomous Weapon...

    By Paul Scharre

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • September 13, 2018
    A Million Mistakes a Second

    Militaries around the globe are racing to build ever more autonomous drones, missiles, and cyberweapons. Greater autonomy allows for faster reactions on the battlefield, an ad...

    By Paul Scharre

  • Commentary
    • NBC News
    • August 7, 2018
    Six arrested after Venezuelan president dodges apparent assassination attempt

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was speaking at a military event when a drone carrying plastic explosives detonated on Saturday. CNAS Technology and National Security Dire...

    By Paul Scharre

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia