They Catch Up on Killer Death Robots

Oh look what’s in the news:

Losing Humanity

This 50-page report outlines concerns about these fully autonomous weapons, which would inherently lack human qualities that provide legal and non-legal checks on the killing of civilians.  In addition, the obstacles to holding anyone accountable for harm caused by the weapons …

They’re only four and a half years late to the party, but I welcome them, nonetheless.

Here is the 2009 reprint of March 1, 2008’s “Killer Death Robots”:

Return of the Killer Death Robots!

Not funny. Not funny at all. From Reuters:

Posted by: Sanjeev Miglani


In a camouflaged trailer truck in the Nevada desert, a bank of computer screens shows live images of a mud-walled compound in Afghanistan, 8,000 miles away. Those pictures are coming from a Predator unmanned aircraft that you, hunched over the computer in the darkened room not far from Vegas, are flying remotely.

Soon two vehicles stop in front of the targeted mud-baked house. Half a dozen bearded men hurry into the house. Seconds later, you squeeze the trigger in Nevada and a 500-pound bomb flattens the building.  Classic Hollywood stuff? Yes, except that this is happening in a real battlefield, and as P.W. Singer, a military expert at Brookings, writes in a new book Wired for War, The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, war by remote control is growing and leading a fundamental change…. [MORE]

And new information on the CIA’s ‘secret’ Predator drone base in Pakistan. (The one that Sen. Diane Feinstein of California accidentally blurted out last week.)

So, a rerun on this story I wrote almost a year ago (which really does include Killer Death Robots info, just wait for it):

1 March 2008…9:01 pm

Killer Death Robots!



And, finally, I really wasn’t kidding about killer death robots. I ran across this story in late October, and had been waiting to see if anyone picked up on it.

Finally, last week, they sort of did. Sort of.

Way down the page on Memeorandum, on February 27 (the blogosphere was dominated by the Dead Wm. F. Buckley story that day) we find this news item

Agence France Presse:

Automated killer robots ‘threat to humanity’: expert …* Increasingly autonomous, gun-toting robots developed for warfare could easily fall into the hands of terrorists and may one day unleash a robot arms race, a top expert on artificial intelligence told AFP…

[* Note: I've changed the link from Breitbart, since, even though it's their most popular story-- 525 "diggs" -- the story itself seemed to have mysteriously vanished when I checked it tonight. Comments still there; story gone. HW]

Yes, that’s right, Virginia, the ultimate chickenhawk wet dream, a robot that will do your killing FOR you, so that you don’t have to, like confront the person you’re going to murder, don’t have to listen to the screams of your victims, or, heaven forfend, get their brains all over your nice, clean REMF fatigues. Oh. Sorry. It seems that what they’re worried about is AUTOMATED killing, not joystick and camera killing. My bad.

As the obligatory asshole expert notes, automated killing could NEVER take place, because, as we all know, Westworld is a place where nothing can possibly go worng (sic).

Courtesy of Common Dreams, the AFP story:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 by Agence France PresseIncreasingly autonomous, gun-totting (sic) robots developed for warfare could easily fall into the hands of terrorists and may one day unleash a robot arms race, a top expert on artificial intelligence told AFP.0227 08“They pose a threat to humanity,” said University of Sheffield professor Noel Sharkey ahead of a keynote address Wednesday before Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.Intelligent machines deployed on battlefields around the world — from mobile grenade launchers to rocket-firing drones — can already identify and lock onto targets without human help.

There are more than 4,000 US military robots on the ground in Iraq, as well as unmanned aircraft that have clocked hundreds of thousands of flight hours.

The first three armed combat robots fitted with large-caliber machine guns deployed to Iraq last summer, manufactured by US arms maker Foster-Miller, proved so successful that 80 more are on order, said Sharkey.

But up to now, a human hand has always been required to push the button or pull the trigger….

OK, class. Now if you’ve been paying attention, you’re way ahead of me. First of all, you now know that these killer robots have ALREADY BEEN USED ON HUMAN BEINGS in Iraq. (I leave it to you to parse the horrific amorality of THAT little innovation.)

And, before I ask you to ask yourself WHY they woudn’t be deployed against YOU, as SWAT teams have increasingly been deployed against citizens of the formerly “land of the brave and home of the free,” I want you to ask yourself this:

… if this isn’t a Constitutional Showdown™, then what the hell is?[Mukasey's contempt of Contempt] should be front page news, in 200 point news gothic on every front page in the land. But it’s not. It’s not as important as pecksniffery on Obama, Hillary and McCain.What on EARTH makes anybody think that there’s GOING to be an election? We don’t even have a Constitution! How about focusing on the crisis in the here and now, rather than playing PEOPLE Magazine with the there and when?

This was what I found back in October (WIRED):


Robot Cannon Kills 9, Wounds 14
By Noah Shachtman
October 18, 2007 | 11:00:00 AM
Categories: Ammo and Munitions, Drones, Guns

We’re not used to thinking of them this way. But many advanced military weapons are essentially robotic — picking targets out automatically, slewing into position, and waiting only for a human to pull the trigger. Most of the time. Once in a while, though, these machines start firing mysteriously on their own. The South African National Defence Force “is probing whether a software glitch led to an antiaircraft cannon malfunction that killed nine soldiers and seriously injured 14 others during a shooting exercise on Friday.”

Which led me to THESE creepy stories (from the same page):

* Roomba-Maker unveils Kill-Bot
* New Armed Robot Groomed for War
* Armed Robots Pushed to Police
* Armed Robots Go Into Action
* Cops Demand Drones
* First Armed Robots on Patrol in Iraq
* Unmanned “Surge”: 3000 More Robots for War
* Taser-Armed ‘Bot Ready to Zap Pathetic Humans
* Top War Tech #5: Talon Robots
* More Robot Grunts Ready for Duty
* Israel’s Killer ‘Bot: Safe Enough for War?

So, here ya go. How come you never heard of this? How come you think they WANT Americans to hear about this? Keep watching Britney. Look! Paris! Lindsey! Ooh!

Armed Robots Go Into Action
By David Hambling

September 10, 2007 | 7:38:00 AM

Categories: Drones, FCS Watch, Gadgets and Gear, Ground Vehicles

There’s a good piece in this month’s National Defense magazine on the deployment of the first armed ground robots in Iraq. These are tele-operated rather than autonomous machines, giving ground troops a way of extending their presence into dangerous areas without exposing themselves to fire….*

[* NOTE: You'll never guess WHICH Death Robot is pictured in the article.]

Now, ask yourself, if people are willing to build detention camps and tell businesses to use “deadly force” when martial law is declared, would THOSE people hesitate for one nanosecond in unleashing deadly killer robots? Battle tested and field certified killer death robots?

The robot from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis

Every step in this stairway to hell has been paved with robotic obeisance to unseen “masters” in Washington D.C. And at some point, the “metaphor” of killer death robots becomes the reality of killer death robots, and we are faced with the epistemological conundrum as to just WHEN the paradigm shifts.

Rather than asking “Will the real Killer Death Robots please stand up?” let’s ask this, instead:

Will the real Killer Death Robots please stand down?


2009 tag: Just because we’ve changed administrations doesn’t do much more than slow (maybe) the advance of this technology. But the question as to whether it will ultimately be used to deal with “civil unrest” remains.

In a nation divided over whether abortions are “murder” can’t we at least agree that the development of robotic killing machines is fundamentally immoral? That it’s not a business that we ought to be engaged in?


2012: And, Human Rights Watch, late as they are, are welcomed, in their opening conclusion:

With the rapid development and proliferation of robotic weapons, machines are starting to take the place of humans on the battlefield. Some military and robotics experts have predicted that “killer robots”—fully autonomous weapons that could select and engage targets without human intervention—could be developed within 20 to 30 years. At present, military officials generally say that humans will retain some level of supervision over decisions to use lethal force, but their statements often leave open the possibility that robots could one day have the ability to make such choices on their own power. Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) believe that such revolutionary weapons would not be consistent with international humanitarian law and would increase the risk of death or injury to civilians during armed conflict. A preemptive prohibition on their development and use is needed.

Welcome to the fight, HRW.



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2 responses to “They Catch Up on Killer Death Robots

  1. jim

    Live by the robot, die by the robot!

  2. It’s too late, y’know. Handy types are building “Battle Mechs” all over the world. They walk – they don’t need to talk… Of course these are so far not stable enough to fulfill SF fantasies, so people are building ones like the various gummints do. (For the same reasons.) If you see a mini-tank thingy rolling down your street – HIDE.