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A robot during a photocall for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
A robot during a photocall for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
Image: Nick Ansell via PA Images

Killer robots could lead to 'new arms race with terrifying consequences', Amnesty International says

Amnesty International is calling for a total ban on the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapon systems.
Jan 22nd 2019, 6:16 AM 11,787 21

MORE THAN THREE in 5 people across 26 countries oppose the development of autonomous weapons that could select and kill targets without human intervention, according to a new poll. 

The poll was commissioned by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a growing global coalition of NGOs, including Amnesty International, that is working to fully ban autonomous weapons. 

It found that 61% of people oppose the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems. 

66% of those opposed to lethal autonomous weapons systems were most concerned that they would “cross a moral line because machines should not be allowed to kill”. 

54% of those opposed said they were concerned that the weapon would be “unaccountable”. 

The findings come from surveys conducted in November and December 2018 by Ipsos. A total of 18,795 adults were surveyed across 26 countries. Ireland was not included in the survey. 

A near-identical survey in 23 countries in January 2017 found that 56% of respondents were opposed to the weapons. 

Amnesty International said that Russia, Israel, South Korea and the US indicated at the annual meeting of the Convention of Conventional Weapons in November 2018 that they would not support negotiations for a new treaty. 

However, the poll results show that more than half of respondents in Russia (59%) and the US (52%) oppose autonomous weapons. 

Support for fully autonomous weapons is strongest in India (50%) and Israel (41%). The strongest opposition is in Turkey (78%), South Korea (74%) and Hungary (74%). 

“This poll shows that states blocking a ban in killer robots are totally out of step with public opinion. Governments should be protecting people from the myriad risks that killer robots pose, not rushing into a new arms race which could have terrifying consequences,” acting deputy director of Amnesty Tech Rasha Rahim. 

We still have time to halt the development and proliferation of fully autonomous weapons, but we won’t have that luxury for long. Governments should take note of this poll and urgently begin negotiating a new treaty to prohibit these horrifying weapons.

“Only this can help ensure respect for international law and address ethical and security concerns regarding delegating the power to make life-and-death decisions to machines,” Rahim said. 

Amnesty International is calling for a total ban on the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapon systems, in light of the “serious, human rights, humanitarian and security risks they pose”.

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Hayley Halpin

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