While armed drones are increasingly used in modern battlefields, there is growing concern that the use of such drones is only a first step towards the development of fully autonomous weapons, so-called “killer robots.”
The development and use of autonomous weapons, where the human is taken ‘out-of-the-loop’ with respect to targeting and attack decisions on the battlefield, would represent a dramatic turning point in the conduct of warfare and raise serious humanitarian, legal, and ethical questions.
These weapons would cross a fundamental moral threshold by allowing machines to select and engage targets and make life or death decisions without any direct human control.
Fully fledged “killer robots” have yet to be used on the battlefield. However, there are concerns that the development of fully autonomous weapons could have devastating consequences and must be prevented before countries risk entering into arms races and significant investment, technological momentum, and acceptance into military doctrine makes it more likely they will be widely used on the battlefield.