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Workshop: Lethal Autonomous Robotics and the Right to Life

Posted on 08 February 2013

Lethal Autonomous Robotics and the Right to Life: Expert Consultation with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns

Some 22 international experts will gather at the EUI on 23 February for a consultation with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, to discuss the consequences for the right to life of the emergence of Lethal Autonomous Robotics (LARs). This will serve to inform Professor Heyns’ report to the Human Rights Council during its June session on this topic.

The experts will include people who work in the areas of law, robotics, computer science, artificial intelligence, psychology, and national security, and they represent academia, the military, governments, intergovernmental organisations and civil society.

The technology needed to build LARs – robotic weapons systems that identify targets and take the decision whether to use lethal force without direct human intervention – is likely to be available in the near future, but there is great uncertainty among governments, militaries, and others as to whether and if so how it is to be used. Some commentators are welcoming the advent of LARs, arguing that the precision targeting capacities of robots exceed that of humans and as such it will save lives; others see this as a dangerous capitulation of human responsibility, and call for “killer robots” to be banned.

The issues the experts will be addressing will focus around questions such as the following: what exactly is meant by autonomy, what is the current state of the development of LARs, how will it impact on the rules of international humanitarian law, what are the broader policy and ethical considerations, and what should be the response of the international community.

(Note: The workshop is a closed meeting).