Tag Archives: Killer Robots

US Killer Robot Policy – No. 5 gets to press the fire button


When the US Defence Secretary signed the deliciously named directive 3000.09, he was, in effect, launching the world’s first national policy on killer robots.

The purpose of the directive is split in two and reads like this:

“This Directive:

a.Establishes DoD policy and assigns responsibilities for the development and use of autonomous and semi – autonomous functions in weapon systems, including manned and unmanned platforms.

b. Establishes guidelines designed to minimize the probability and consequences of failures in autonomous and semi – autonomous
weapon systems that could lead to unintended engagements.”

So basically, it’s about who get to develop killer robots, and who we get to point the blame at, should the killer robots go all Robocop 2 on everyone.

It was released last year, but according to a thourhgly researched and very interesting article in the rather niche publication Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the policy actually:

“[…] fully supports developing, testing, and using the technology, without delay. Far from applying the brakes, the policy in effect overrides longstanding resistance within the military, establishes a framework for managing legal, ethical, and technical concerns, and signals to developers and vendors that the Pentagon is serious about autonomous weapons.”

What this means is that not only are we likely to see various arms manufacturers enter a race to build real versions of the No. 5 Robot from Short Circuit (minus the actual short circuiting and evolving feelings from jumping on a frog), but that one piece of legislation has achieved the nigh on impossible feat of horrifying human rights organisations and military drone operators at the same time. .


Killer robots and human rights – it’s on!

Killer robots. Two words that you’d usually find in science fiction books and film manuscripts – or in heated discussions on sci-fi fan forums where Asimov’s three rules of robots are often invoked as the final gospel.

Whether or not Asimov was thrown on the table at the UN this week is hard to say, but the United Nations did find themselves discussing killer robots.

The central question raised was: Should robots be allowed to take a human life, without direct supervision or command?

The reason behind the question being raised is that several countries are developing robotic weapons that can automatically aim and fire weapons at objects they perceive as threats / legitimate targets.

The new ‘killer robots’ mean that fewer soldiers will be in harm’s way in a future war-zone, but it does raise issues about how trustworthy robots are on a battlefield.

I know it’s a bit old school, but in my book a good illustration of just how wrong war can go when robots run rampant is the movie WarGames. A computer starts out playing tic-tack-toe and within a week it’s on the cusp of starting a nuclear war…