July 04, 2015 05:02 UTC

Science & Technology

Rights Group Calls for Ban on Fully Autonomous Killer Robots

Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary.

Using the same technology responsible for lethal strikes elsewhere in the world, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is expanding its use of Predator B unmanned aircraft outfitted with powerful infrared cameras and sensitive radar to patrol U.S. borders.
Using the same technology responsible for lethal strikes elsewhere in the world, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is expanding its use of Predator B unmanned aircraft outfitted with powerful infrared cameras and sensitive radar to patrol U.S. borders.

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story
  • Concerns About Killer Robots and Passenger Planes Take Flight

From VOA Learning English, this is the TECHNOLOGY REPORT in Special English.
 
An international rights group has called on world governments to ban fully autonomous weapon systems. Human Rights Watch recently released a report called, “Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots.” It warns that fully autonomous systems could increase risk to civilians during armed conflict.
 
Militaries around the world are increasingly using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, also called drones, in modern warfare. They say drones make war safer and more effective. The machines can gather intelligence, help identify targets, and provide deadly force - but only if a human operator gives the order.
 
Human Rights Watch fears that within 30 years developments in technology could remove the need for human operators. David Mepham is the United Kingdom director of Human Rights Watch.
 
"One of the things that holds us back from barbarism in contexts of war obviously this distinction between combatants and civilians and we are worried about a robotic weapon of the future not being able to distinguish between a child holding out an ice cream and someone holding a weapon."
 
The United States and other militaries have stated they have no plans to remove human supervision over the decision to use deadly force.
 
Human Rights Watch says a treaty would help to guarantee that this does not happen. The group says a ban on what it calls “killer robots” would be similar to current bans on the use of landmines and cluster bombs.
 
Hugo Rosemont is an independent security expert in Britain. He says discussions about the future of autonomous technology should not be limited to its military uses.

"There also needs to be a public discussion around some of the wider applications, such as in the use of disaster management and humanitarian relief."  
 
For example, France sent remote-controlled robots to Japan last year to help contain the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power center. This was a job that most people would agree was better left to machines.
 
In a separate but related story, airplane passengers could soon take to the air without a pilot on the plane. In the next few weeks, a group in Britain will carry out test flights of a Jetstream 31 passenger airplane. A pilot on the ground will control the plane through its autonomous flight system. Safety pilots will be on the aircraft to make sure everything operates correctly.
 
The tests will show how well the plane navigates and follows the orders it receives from the ground.
 
The Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evalutaion and Assessment group is leading the project. The flights are set to leave from the Warton Aerodrome in Lancashire, England.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Rick from: Italy
12/08/2012 7:12 PM
Good article thanks to VOA.


by: linkjak from: DC
12/05/2012 5:14 PM
Wait a minute. So, the argument is that the technology will be so amazingly advanced that it will no longer require a human in the loop, but at the same time so crappy that it will not be able to tell the difference between a gun and an ice cream cone? And we are supposed to immediately stop this technology advancement because of what might happen in 30 years?


by: BIJU.P.Y. from: SOUTH INDIA
12/05/2012 4:30 PM
Thank you for sharing such valuable information. How far human invention has reached! But we must see to it that these inventions are used only for useful purposes and not for destructive purposes. It is easier to destroy than to create. Drones must be used for helping man in times of danger and not for endangering human lives. Inventions must be brought in service of humans and not destroying them, instead. That is why George Bernad Shaw once said, 'common sense is not so common'. Thanks anyway.


by: Rick from: Italy
12/04/2012 11:24 PM
Unfortunately,
it is impossible to renounce to the technology research because we need to defend our own life and freedom. All country in the world make technology and research for weapons. Who discover better things, win the battle for his freedom. The freedom is an endless battle. Nobody give you it as a gift. Excuse me for my bad english. Thanks to VOA and greetings to all here. Bye


by: linh tran from: vietnam
12/04/2012 1:52 PM
after reading this article , I really corcern about a future of robot , when robot will be used to bad action even if it against human who created it


by: Bob Milton from: Beijing, China
12/04/2012 9:39 AM
Improving our lives with autonomous robots

The autonomous robots can improve human lives in addition to various military and industrial uses. Imagine things as follows:

1) Looking after infants and children. An autonomous robot can cover a quilt well for infants and children as soon as children kick off the quilt while sleeping. Thus, Children can avoid sickness and their mum can sleep comfortably without any concerns.

2) Looking after older people. Older people simply say words like “Give me a cup of water.”, “Massage my legs.”, “Clean up the room.”, “Turn on the light.”, “Take me upstairs.” and so on, then the robot immediately provide services according to the orders. One robot can look after several old people simultaneously. This kind of demand will become more and more as we gradually step into aging society.

It has a lot of advantages to replace persons with robots. Robots can work all 24 hours per day without a rest and unaware of fatigue, they have no need for problems of livelihood like eating and drinking and they hardly get sick. As a result, compared with persons, they provide more cost-effective services.


by: awaludin from: padang, indonesia
12/03/2012 12:59 PM
VOA is a great way to learn english. By reading the story i can learn more about what happening in my or other country. And one thing i like the most about this program is i can download every story from my android phone. :)


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
12/03/2012 9:48 AM
Is human really intelligent? Is actually mankind evolving? Why on earth cannot we help killing peers? Why cannot we avoid fighting battles each other? Are we truly civilized? Aren't we nothing more than the beasts that live only to eat ?

In a separate but related story, it's no doubt we have developed nuclear power plants and venefited much from them. But it's also fact that we don't know how to treat the wastes of nuclear reaction. It might have been too earlier for us to have had flames returned from Prometheus.

Learn with The News

  • Audio Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About the 4th of July

    Sure, you know Americans celebrate their Independence Day on the fourth day of July. But do you know they have the wrong date? Or where they get all those fireworks? Hint: not from the UK. More

  • Video France's 'Freedom Frigate' to Celebrate 4th of July

    A warship from France that came to the United States 235 years ago became a sign of friendship between the two countries. The French ship traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to help defeat the British during the American revolutionary war. Now a full-scale replica has been making that same trip. More

  • Video Japanese-Americans Remember End of World War II

    VOA goes to a gathering of old men who served in the American military during the war. They fought against Japan while their families were being detained in internment camps in the US. “I…felt very strongly that we needed to show that we were patriotic Americans.” | As It Is More

  • Audio Chinese Children Seeking a Happy Ending

    Repeated cases of child abuse in China have shocked the country. They also have led to more protection of children’s rights. But child welfare activists say the government and private groups need to do more to stop neglect and violence against children. More

  • Tunisia Attack

    Audio Tunisia Detains 12 in Connection with Hotel Attacks

    Also in the news today, an Afghan court is canceling death sentences given to four men for a mob killing of a woman; At least 36 dead in Philippines boat accident, and dozens remain missing; and the United States and Japan will face each other again in the Women’s World Cup final this Sunday. More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Independence Day

    Independence Day is a huge celebration in the United States. People celebrate by having parades and picnics and usually end the day with fireworks. So what do some of these words mean? More

  • Video The Diamond Lens by Fitz-James O'Brien, Part One

    This story by a little-known American writer tells of a young man with a strong desire. He wants to learn how to use a microscope to see a tiny world. He tries to talk with a ghost to learn a secret from the inventor of the microscope. What will happen when he tries to build his own microscope? More

  • South Korea Film Terminator Genisys

    Video Demons, Male Dancers and Dinosaurs at Theaters Everywhere

    Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the Terminator and Channing Tatum reprises his role as stripper Magic Mike. But there are also scary movies about demon children, comedies with a talking teddy bear and a marijuana-smoking secret agent; and a documentary about the late British singer Amy Winehouse. More

  • Audio Sweet Potatoes as Medicine

    Researchers have helped to reduce a major health problem with a simple food – the orange sweet potato. A program created to help farmers grow the crop has unexpected and healthy results. Some reports say this is the first time an agricultural program has had a major effect on health. More

  • Video Robots Ready to Work in Restaurants

    For many years, machines have been doing work that people once did, including some difficult jobs. Search and rescue operations employ high technology robots. But there is another area that may soon take jobs traditionally held by human beings: the restaurant industry. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs