robocop killer robot
Courtesy Fandango and YouTube
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By Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press

Nobel Peace laureate Jody Williams is helping lead a campaign for a new international treaty to ban killer weapons that can select targets and fire without decision-making by a human being.

Williams said at a news conference Monday that these lethal autonomous weapons “are crossing a moral and ethical Rubicon and should not be allowed to exist and be used in combat or in any other way.”

The American peace activist said the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which started in 2013 and now has 130 groups in 60 countries supporting it, is trying to gain support from governments and people everywhere to step up pressure for a treaty, “so we don’t see these weapons unleashed on the world.”

Williams, who shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her key role in the successful campaign for a treaty banning land mines, came to New York with members of the killer robot campaign to meet with diplomats from the U.N. General Assembly’s disarmament committee.

They brought a robot with them to the news conference and to a side event for U.N. member nations afterward that spoke out against killer robots.

“A machine is not a moral anything,” Williams said. “So, allowing machines, in theory through algorithms, decide what they will target and what they will attack is one of the huge reasons why we consider to be crossing the Rubicon, and grossly unethical and immoral.”


“Machines should be in the service of human beings,” she said. “Human beings should not be in the service of machines.”

Liz O’Sullivan, who resigned from the artificial intelligence company Clarifai Inc. over a project that could be used to build autonomous weapons and is now technical director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said she is devoting her life to prevent killer robots.

“There is absolutely nothing stopping a nation or any group of people from creating their own version of fully autonomous weapon systems today,” she said. “They wouldn’t work very well. They might not be safe, but they certainly do exist.”

O’Sullivan said it seems every branch of the military is working on their own version of these weapons.

“There are autonomous boats that will potentially have the ability to fire, there are autonomous drones … and also vehicles,” she said. “The easiest technological problem to solve is through the drones, so that’s most likely what we’ll see first, and the rest as technology advances.”


O’Sullivan said that is what is known just from public information and that there are almost certainly classified programs.

“These killer robots … aren’t a future problem,” she said. “They’re possible today, and they’re something that we need to work to control right now.”

Mary Wareham, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch’s arms division and coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, said, “It is abundantly clear that we are moving very swiftly in the direction of fully autonomous weapons, which is why we’re calling for diplomacy to speed up.”


In mid-November the parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons will be meeting in Geneva and they could agree to start such negotiations.

But Wareham said that committee operates by consensus and while “the vast majority of countries want to move forward,” they are being held back by nations countries most advanced in developing autonomous weapons.

She said the United States has led in developing these weapons, followed by Russia and China, but other countries are also “heavily invested,” including South Korea, Israel, the United Kingdom “to some extent” and perhaps Turkey and Iran.

She added that there are two other ways to launch negotiations — either by adopting a U.N. General Assembly resolution or having a country begin the process, as Canada did for the land mine treaty and Norway did for the treaty banning cluster munitions.

“Countries need to come together in a core group willing to take on the big guys, so to speak,” Williams said.

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    • Watching the clip again, shouldn’t the robot know the gun isn’t charged? Also, how is there any window glass left after those gazillion 20mm rounds flying through the air? And shouldn’t an “urban pacification unit” be able to navigate stairs? Looks like Dick Jones cut a lot of corners.

    • I agree with your sentiment. All robots should have at least one half of a human brain built in before we can trust them with decisions of life and death, like Robocop. We need to make sure the brain is from some good cop, though. We don’t want drug addicted monsters like the one in Robocop 2. Or was it 3? Anyway they add that to the treaty! 😄

  1. Inability to stop the signal applies here. Even if you get a nation to agree there is a 100% chance that nation will go about developing them anyway so the only productive response is to develop countermeasures for the nation, the state and the individual.

    • Not only that, but much like weaponized drones… they’re already doable with consumer-level hardware. The cat is out of the bag, and you can’t undo it or legislate it away any more than firearms control is fundamentally possible.

      I agree that the only reasonable course of action is to figure out countermeasures and distribute them widely. Campaigning for a ban is absurd, and does nothing.

      • PK,

        Actually, our situation is even more bleak. It is only a matter of time before nations are able to deploy miniature autonomous “drones”, each with a single lethal dose of poison, in swarms that can take out countless thousands of people. (Envision miniature mechanical drones the size of humming birds or even bumble bees which crash into their victim and deliver their lethal dose of poison in the process.) Given the tiny size, I doubt that they will be able to discriminate “good guys” from “bad guys”. Of course that ability has never stopped nations from dropping bombs whose shrapnel also does not discriminate “good guys” from “bad guys”. Nevertheless, their tiny size makes it utterly impossible to defend against them and that will be too irresistible for any nation to pass up.

        My only question is how long it will take to make such miniature autonomous drones in quantity at an affordable price. When someone is able to manufacture 100s of thousands of such drones and sell them for under $100 each, I think our military will be all over it.

        (Today a “smart bomb” capable of killing several hundred people in a confined location costs on the order of $1 million. If our military could purchase 1,000 miniature autonomous drones for $100,000 they would do that in a heartbeat, assuming that those 1,000 drones would be capable of killing several hundred people in a confined location just like the smart bomb.)

  2. unleash them and set them free to wander amongst us.
    i’m pretty sure i know to where they’ll be heading.

  3. LoL. No, lady.. banning the software/hardware that could make its own decisions on killing something isn’t going to solve your problem.

    It would also hold back all kinds of advances in robotics and AI that will be used to save lives. Beside if we don’t build it, we won’t understand it, so if need be we won’t know how to break it.

    You can’t stop the signal.

  4. “Machines should be in the service of human beings,” she said. “Human beings should not be in the service of machines.”

    This is how the First Cylon War started.

  5. What an idiot. If she had read the Asimov “Robot” books, she would already know how this turns out.

  6. Remember when China agreed not to edit the human genome and thena rogue Chinese scientist edited the human genome?

    Pepperidge Farm remembers.

    • That scientist is now under “house arrest”. More likely he was requisitioned to work on a covert government program.

  7. No worries, as long as I have my trusty Barrett M82/”Cobra Assault Cannon”

    (BTW, did you ever notice Robo gets a stovepipe after the second shot?)

    • Oh wow, you’re right. Good observation.
      As cheesy as that movie’s stop-motion special effects were and how poorly done, the overall movie was better than the slick CGI remake with Michael Keaton.

      • Robocop was a great movie on so many levels. The commercials are probably one of the best parts honestly.

        • “I’D BUY THAT FOR A DOLLAR!” 🙂

          Agreed, btw. The original Robocop is an excellent flick. Lots of very dark humor and irony. Plus, Peter Weller is great in everything he does. Very underrated actor. He was superb as a drug-dealing creep of a boyfriend in “Firstborn” with Terri Garr.

        • There is an interview with Weller somewhere on youtube from years sgo.. he says that he got the part because of his chin. The audition they had him hold a clipboard up over the top half of his face and that was about it..

  8. The overall design of the Universe is that when man became too intelligent and began understand too much he was now a threat to the grand plan and has to be eliminated by his own hand. All creatures eventually become extinct only now its mans turn. P.S. if you thought global warming was fake news you would be wrong. Mans demise will come from a multitude of directions and causes and all at the same time Its in the plan. War, pestilence, disease, global warming, and a grand die off of ocean life due to mans pollution of it. Jock Cousteau predicted it 60 years ago when he said “The Oceans are dying” and he should have added “along with mankind”.

    • In the 70’s we were promised an ice age. Now we’re being promised warm weather. I believe the new predictions as much as the old.

      • jwm

        we were not promised an ice age in the 1970s, this is a lie spread by people who don’t want till you to think about global warming. There was a minority view that it could be a risk, and newsweek picked that up and ran a cover. It was never a consensus view. The consensus view has always been that greenhouse gasses cause warming.

        • “It was never a consensus view. The consensus view has always been that greenhouse gasses cause warming.”

          First off, “consensus” isn’t science.

          The greatest scientific discoveries were by the scientists that rejected the “consensus”, and were proven *right*.

          “What do you mean the earth goes around the sun? It’s obvious, it rises in the east, and sets in the west, every day. Next you’re going to tell me the earth is round, you loon!”

          Hearing the word “consensus” in science is a warning. Logical thought *requires* a rejection of group-think…

        • ““It was never a consensus view.”

          The majority of the worlds scientists predicted global warming as far aback as the 1940’s. Yes it was and still is a consensus. Global warming causes extremes of weather which can cause both cold and hot extremes of weather. So the extremely cold weather that we were hit with decades ago was just the first indications of global warming. The amount of pollution that has in the past and is in the present being poured into the atmosphere and into the oceans was and is a time bomb in the making that has finally exploded.

          In 1947 the pollution in the ocean was already so bad that when Thor Heyerdahl made his first famous Kon-tiki voyage he could not brush his teeth with ocean water because of all the garbage floating in the ocean.

          To claim that the millions of tons of pollution being poured into the air and water is not causing global warming is ludicrous in the extreme.

        • Weird how I was told about the coming of ice age in couple of decades by my teacher in socialist central European country. I mean, did the whole world teach what was only in one American newspaper?
          Then later it was the ozone layer depletion that will surely kill us all. African bees, no bees, y2k, end of the Mayan calendar in 2012… Excuse my skepticism.
          None of the catastrophic predictions from 20 or 30 years back realized, after all.

          The CO2 is a good thing and there is a lack of it in the atmosphere. Global warming, whatever may cause it, is a good thing. Let’s remember that while some cry about some iceberg thawing in Greenland, that isle was at some point (well before all the fossil fuels were burned) green with woods. Not even that long ago there were vineyards growing in England.
          Only constant in the nature is the neverending change. I will take warming over freezing any time. More food, more usable land (Canada, Greenland and Siberia) , less deaths by exposure.

    • Rubiconcrossed,

      I hope you would agree that scooping up sand from the ocean floor and pouring it onto the beach is most definitely NOT pollution. (That process is simply taking sand from one location and returning it back to its original location.)

      That is exactly what humans are doing with the carbon dioxide that you call “pollution”. That carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere thousands of years ago. Plants and animals extracted that carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and incorporated it into their cell structures. Then they died off, locking that carbon dioxide in their dead cell structures. More recently, humans have been releasing that locked carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Thus, humans are quite literally returning our Earth to its more pristine, original state.

      And NO!, I am not kidding nor trolling.

      Releasing sand from the ocean floor and restoring our beaches is NOT pollution. Neither is releasing carbon dioxide from dead cell structures and restoring our atmosphere. Get over it.

  9. Well that’s certainly nice. But what about other artificially intelligent robots? Once something can think for itself, it decides what to do. Remember that before buying an artificially intelligent Japanese sex robot.

    • “Once something can think for itself, it decides what to do.”

      Then, you arrive at “Colossus”.

  10. It can’t be reasoned with, it can’t be bargained with…it doesn’t feel pity of remorse or fear…and it absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead.

    • I never understood why would the Skynet waste time shooting people one by one. Poison in air or water supply, or some biological weapon would make for a very short movie.

  11. It’s been the same since Homo Erectus first walked the plains of Africa, every advance in technology (from sticks to rocks to clubs to guns to AI) that has benefited the advancement of man has also been subverted to attempt to subjugate those same men.. You can’t kill something that is part of a greater thing, knock weaponized AI out of the sunlight and it will grow even stronger in the dark… And yes I am aware that we are Homo Sapiens (NOT Erectus) but Erectus was the earliest known man-like being…

  12. Too late. Defensive systems, like Aegis, can work autonomously because people can’t act fast enough.

  13. A hundered years ago when I was a kid I told my dad robots would someday rule the world. Thst night he dreampt about it, the next morning he said, ” Dont tell me none of them damned robot stories, I fought that bastard all night, I finally filled him full of gas, he swelled up at the seems and the rivets blew.”

  14. So the difference between a gun with some sensors and a decision tree on whether or not to fire.. and a claymore with a trip wire is what?

    • “So the difference between a gun with some sensors and a decision tree on whether or not to fire.. and a claymore with a trip wire is what?”

      Electric current?

  15. I’m a strong supporter of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (killbots as Futurama calls them, or battle droids as Star Wars calls them), and not just because I’m a Jedi!

    Sorry for the jokes, as it’s hard to remain serious about an organization with a title like that, but it really is a serious issue. The technology exists today, and it’s both scary and immoral. And I say this as a former U.S. Army tanker. Tanks manned by humans are great, tanks manned by robots are evil. Also, when a robot tank breaks down or throws a track, there’s no tank crew to fix it (or scuttle it with a thermite grenade), so it will get captured by the enemy and used against Americans. Ditto for robot warships.

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