Killer Robots Are Not a Fantasy
Wareham, Mary. "Killer robots are not a fantasy. The world must reject and block these weapons." USA Today 30 December 2019 and associated publications, including "Killer robot weapons are a threat," The Ventura County Star, 1 January 2010: p. 9A (Opinion). As of 3 January 2020, available various places on line, most centrally here: <https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/12/30/world-must-ban-autonomous-weapons-killer-robots-column/2729729001/>.
Not exactly a classical lede nor a subtitle, but functioning as a log-line on this opinion piece at USAtoday.com: "These autonomous weapons are not science fiction, they're an existential threat. Public pressure is the key to an international treaty to ban them" (italics removed). The article is relevant since killer robots are indeed science fiction, featuring in a number of narratives and pictured with fascination and horror in films such as THE TERMINATOR.
Allowing machines to select and target humans sounds like something out of an apocalyptic sci-fi movie. But as we enter another decade, it is becoming increasingly obvious that we’re teetering on the edge of that dangerous threshold.
Countries including China, Israel, South Korea, Russia and the United States are already developing and deploying precursors to fully autonomous weapons, such as armed drones that are piloted remotely. These countries are investing heavily in military applications of artificial intelligence with the goal of gaining a technological advantage in next-generation preparedness for the battlefield.
These killer robots, once activated, would select and engage targets without further human intervention.
There is now an International Committee for Robot Arms Control, and international movement to enact such control.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed alarm last month that “killer robots could take the place of soldiers.” Deeming the prospect of machines with the power and discretion to take human life “politically unacceptable and morally despicable,” he has called for a new treaty to be negotiated and offered U.N. support toward that goal in his Agenda for Disarmament.
MINOR CAUTION: The article repeats the phrase "existential threat," and, as we quote above, has it that "Killer robots are now seen as one of the top existential threats faced by the planet." Sensible people probably don't and won't see killer robots that way: Earth will survive killer robots even if the robots and other AI systems destroy all life on the planet — see Fred Saberhagen's Berserker stories — and note that even the Terminators seem to want only to exterminate humans, in the manner of Doctor Who's extraterrestrial robot-looking Daleks, and that the Terminators have so far in the series not managed that.
RDE, Initial Compiler