August 20, 2014 14:35 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

  • Founders Chef Ype Von Hengst (right  and Robert Giaimo during construction of the first Silver Diner in 1989. (Courtesy of Silver Diner)

    Audio Diners Increase Business with Healthy Food

    Restaurants called “diners” can be found throughout the United States. They make simple, low-cost food. But traditional diner food is often unhealthy. One group of diners is cooking healthier food for their customers and, surprisingly, they love it. More

  • Edie Mukiibi, the new vice president of Slow Food International, at a school garden he helped create in Mukono, Uganda, July 22, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)

    Audio Learning to Grow Traditional Foods in Uganda

    The "slow food" movement is growing in the Western world, but not in Africa. Group works to help people in Uganda and other countries grow local, healthy food. | Agriculture Report More

  • A man is lead away after being detained by police. Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 18, 2014.

    Audio More Than 70 Arrested in Missouri Protests

    Police arrested more than 70 protestors and reporters Monday night and early Tuesday in the central U.S. town of Ferguson, Missouri. The demonstrators were protesting the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer on August 9. More

  • Demonstrators stand in the middle of West Florissant as they react to tear gas fired by police during ongoing protests in reaction to the shooting of teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Ta

    Audio Police Actions Cause Anger

    Many Americans are angry about the police use of military practices and equipment, like rubber bullets and tear gas, against protestors in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City. Protests happened after the recent deaths of unarmed civilians when they clashed with police officers. More

  • FILE - A Lowland Gorilla is seen in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in South Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Audio Ebola Kills More Than Humans

    The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus has taken more than 1,000 human lives in West Africa. But it is also killed many endangered western lowland gorillas. More

Featured Stories

  • sleep

    While You Sleep, Your Brain Works

    While we sleep, our brains are doing much more than getting ready for the next day. Researchers at the University of Rochester found that the brain may be busy cleaning house -- cleaning out harmful waste materials. More

  • Biltmore Outdoor

    Audio Biltmore Estate Takes Visitors Back in Time

    The huge home in North Carolina was built at the end of the 1800s. The man who owned the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina was George Vanderbilt. Biltmore has 250 rooms and the house is now open to the public. | This Is America More

  • Audio English at the Movies: Robin Williams

    Robin Williams was a humorist and a highly-trained actor. We look at some of his most famous movie lines from a Learning English angle | American Mosaic More

  • Audio From Huge to Extra Small, at New York City Museum

    Currently the Queens Museum is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the New York World's Fair. The museum show is called “Bringing the World Into the World.” It includes a huge model of New York City that was made for the fair. | American Mosaic More

  • Some considered John Brown a hero.

    Audio John Brown Raids Harpers Ferry

    In October of 1859, a group of anti-slavery extremists attacked the town of Harpers Ferry. Harpers Ferry was part of Virginia then; today it is located in West Virginia. A man named John Brown led the attack. His group seized a gun factory and a center where the government kept military equipment. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs