UN Investigator Calls for Ban on LARs

    23 June, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

    A United Nations special investigator recently called for a ban on the production and use of lethal autonomous robots, also known as LARs. Critics say these "killer robots" may one day choose and strike targets independently, without human intervention.

    UN official Christof Heyns says the lack of human commanders raises many moral and ethical questions about LARs. He spoke last month at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

    "War without reflection is mechanical slaughter, in the same way that the taking of any human life deserves - as a minimum - some deliberation, a decision to allow machines to be deployed to kill human beings worldwide. Whatever weapons they use, deserves a collective pause."

    Mr Heyns says "killer robots" should not have the power of life and death over human beings. He disagrees with people who say the robots could help reduce the possibility of human error, or accidental death.

    "In some cases, people also make mistakes with their act of fear, or may even be driven to act out of revenge or cruelty. Yet at the same time, humans may in some cases, unlike robots, act out of compassion or grace."

    Mr Heyns presented a 22-page report to the Human Rights Council, his report recognizes that robots with full lethal autonomous have yet to be deployed, but he notes that some countries already have robotics systems in use. And others are believed to be developing autonomous robots.

    Drones have been appointed of debate in recent years, these vehicles operate without a human pilot riding on the aircraft. Many countries have drone programs. Drone strikes have helped the United States in its battle against militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Last month, president Obama described a plan of action for American's fight against terrorism. He said the use of drone strikes must be held to high standards.

    "America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists. Our preference is always to detain, interrogate and prosecute them. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose. Our actions are bound by consultations with partners and respect for state sovereignty."

    President Obama called the use of drones "effective", but he noted that the new technology raises what he called profound questions.

    "As our fight enters a new phase, America's legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance, for the same progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power, or risk abusing it."

    Shortly after his speech, the Pakistani Taliban reported that its number 2 commander was killed in a suspected American drone strike.

    And that's the Technology Report from VOA Learning English, I'm June Simms.