The phrase “killer robot” instantly conjures images from science fiction, like the ruthless T-1000 Terminator that slowly reforms to resume its deadly mission after being frozen with liquid nitrogen and blasted to pieces. But a future involving autonomous weapons systems—capable of killing people without anyone’s direction—isn’t so far fetched.
In fact, as U.S. soldiers sit in bunkers and conduct drone strikes thousands of miles away, the military is testing a computer-operated drone that could be rolled out in a matter of years. That is, unless people can stop it.
Enter the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of NGOs lobbying to preemptively ban lethal, autonomous weapons systems by international treaty. Gathered at a United Nations building in New York on Tuesday, a panel of six campaign members lamented to an equal number of journalists that development of the independent devices is outpacing the progress on reaching a diplomatic deal to ban them.