Killer robots on the UN agenda

IRobot

The United Nations will be debating the necessity of killer robots as advances in technology mean that they're existence is not far off.

When hearing the term 'killer robot' the film I, Robot automatically springs to mind, (spoiler alert) when a futuristic American city is almost taken over by thousands of rogue NS5 robots, but all is saved when a part-man part-robot Will Smith destroys the 'robot leader'.

The technology might not ever be as far advanced or far-fetched as Alex Proyas' 2004 hit movie, but technology is advanced enough that experts believe that robots could soon be deployed onto the battlefield instead of soldiers.

Robotics experts, Prof Ronald Arkin and Prof Noel Sharkey will be debating the pros and cons of killer robots during the UN meeting in Geneva. The meeting is set to take place during the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

The definition of a killer robot is an autonomous weapon that can detect and engage enemy targets without the need for human intervention.

Prof Noel Sharkey is against the deployment of robots in combat, and he believes that their autonomous kill functions could be a threat to humanity.

"Autonomous weapons systems cannot be guaranteed to predictably comply with international law," he told the BBC. "Nations aren't talking to each other about this, which poses a big risk to humanity."

Prof Arkin of the Georgia Institute of Technology has much higher hopes for robotics, he told the Beeb that he hopes robots could dramatically decrease the number of civilian casualties as a result of countries engaging in warfare.

Unfortunately the UK government has said previously that they have absolutely no plans to start developing autonomous weapons anytime soon.

The United States Defense Department is also on the same line after issuing a directive in 2012 stating that humans must be 'in-the-loop' when making decisions about using lethal force.