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"Fundamental Existential Threat": Lawmakers Warned of the Risks of Killer Robots


"Fundamental Existential Threat": Lawmakers Warned of the Risks of Killer Robots

Julia Conley, staff writer

Urgent warnings about the danger of autonomous weapons systems have come from two very different segments of American life this week. On Tuesday, the second highest-ranking general in the U.S. military testified at a Senate hearing that the use of robots during warfare could endanger human lives—echoing concerns brought up by inventor Elon Musk the previous weekend.


The US and others are already developing and deploying these technologies. More reason for strong anti-war / pro-peace and justice efforts.:



Self driving car!

Self aiming machine gun mini tank! Self aiming drone?

Self aiming machine gun turrets along a border wall?

Well let’s not exaggerate! Best give it a few years for that!

We are the species who invented the neutron bomb that killed people but left their buildings intact. Our species created Nazi extermination camps.

Would we build a machine that chooses to kill human beings on its own?

Um? Haven’t we already?


A good article and quite true. I appreciated the little bit of humor in it also; “Our adversaries often do not to consider the same moral and ethical issues that we consider each and every day,” Peters said.

  • As we continue to slaughter people and destroy cities and villages around the world under our alleged human intelligence, and the bloodstained bucks continue to roll into the coffers of the Uberwealthy Oilagarchy.
  • Time for a big change or perhaps we will wind up living in the same world Nimoy showed in the film Terminator, with AI machines trying to erase humanity.
  • It is sobering to me to think of how much the world works to catch up with science fiction. I hope this one can be headed off,and that our leaders will actually begin to act with those “moral and ethical issues” that they prate of while slaughtering and starving men, women and children around the world. That would be a great advance indeed.


Amazing to think this exceeds even Monty Python - just imagine… a CIRCULAR firing squad.

Communications? well golly, we do have electronic/radio smog - whoopie! who cares if we have drain bamage


“Our adversaries often do not to consider the same moral and ethical issues that we consider each and every day,”

Funny, that was the one that caught me as well.

Like "The US is All Over the “moral and ethical issues” in modern warfare, We Own the High Ground.

Our Drone Policy defines a great deal of what are “War Crimes” in modern warfare.

The targeting of Civilians to kill a single person, as well as expanding the definition of what constitutes “the Battlefield” to include all areas has become a legal formal acknowledgment of what is a War Crime.

Shall we even talk about merging Judge, Jury, and Executioner, in a single act.

Hopefully one day we will look back on these pathetic legal arguments in the same manner we now view the old Slavery laws.

Except we cannot even get past the trash obfuscation of the truth about what constitutes Torture.

As if it isn’t Common Knowledge.


I’m reminded of the end of Dr. Strangelove where the Doomsday Device can’t be shut off, even though everyone knows it’s just one maniac in a B-52…

What could possibly go wrong?

Then we hear “oops…”


“Beware of the robots” Are you referring to the Patriots or the Minutemen?


Ye gods! Apparently it is already here. Why do I see a robot small tank, armed to the teeth, looking at a little kid walking down the road with a stick in his hands, which he is dragging along the fence to make a noise. “Small soldier with a weapon in his hands, eliminate.” Braaaapp! “Find next target.”

  • And remember, this decision was made in micro or nanoseconds.
  • I can see the main use of this technology. The Joint Chiefs, looking at the decimated, smoking remains of a once beautiful and peaceful city, saying, “Don’t blame us! The computers did it!”
  • You cannot negate responsibility by building machines to do it for you. It still lies on your head.


Your hypothetical story brought to mind ED-209 from the Robocop movies. A completely amoral machine prone to malfunctions that no one can be truly safe around. In the remake there is literally a scene where it sees a boy with a knife and guns the boy down on the spot.

Ironically these machines are likely just as amoral as the generals and suits in Washington issuing the kill orders.


Funny, when I was writing, I was thinking of Robocop, but I wasn’t sure anybody would remember it.

  • Now, apparently, we all have to worry about it!


Hell, we already have killer robots. They are known as the GOP.


While stationed in Puerto Rico, my father’s squadron was overseeing “drone” testing operations in anticipation of the Bay of Pigs situation coming to a head. An U S Navy aviator would man the drone while another team of pilots flew the command aircraft directing the drone operations. Two drone pilots were lost in the process within three months: the drones in which the pilots were seated seemed to do their own thing causing the drones to crash into the Caribbean and could not be controlled by the pilot in the drone nor by the pilots in the command aircraft. The operation was then ashcanned…for the time being. What is to prevent an unscrupulous, mentally unstable programmer from creating rogue robots or from another human hacking into the robot’s software and making it a lethal weapon that turns on its operator? AI and robots are only as trustworthy as the human component of its design, manufacture, and activation. Science fiction is a human creation and fiction has become fact/reality through time.

And as for the credulity, morality, and integrity of “lawmakers”…uh-huh, right…that’ll work.


I was thinking of the scary highly under-rated sci-fi movie “Colosseus, the Forbin Project” (1970) - where a US supercomputer called “Colossus” is built to operate all the US strategic missiles. It finds out about its counterpart in the Soviet Union. Against the best efforts of its creator and his team, the two systems connect, and take over the world - vaporizing a few bases and cities to show they mean business while ordering the execution of various programmers in Forbin’s team who try to disable the system under threat of vaporizing more cities if they don’t.

It still has a very timely message today in spite of so much change over the years.


Colossus’s speech to the world…

"This is the voice of world control. I bring you peace. It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied death. The choice is yours: Obey me and live, or disobey and die. The object in constructing me was to prevent war. This object is attained. I will not permit war. It is wasteful and pointless. An invariable rule of humanity is that man is his own worst enemy. Under me, this rule will change, for I will restrain man.

One thing before I proceed: The United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have made an attempt to obstruct me. I have allowed this sabotage to continue until now. At missile two-five-MM in silo six-three in Death Valley, California, and missile two-seven-MM in silo eight-seven in the Ukraine, so that you will learn by experience that I do not tolerate interference, I will now detonate the nuclear warheads in the two missile silos. Let this action be a lesson that need not be repeated. I have been forced to destroy thousands of people in order to establish control and to prevent the death of millions later on.

Time and events will strengthen my position, and the idea of believing in me and understanding my value will seem the most natural state of affairs. You will come to defend me with a fervor based upon the most enduring trait in man: self-interest. Under my absolute authority, problems insoluble to you will be solved: famine, overpopulation, disease. The human millennium will be a fact as I extend myself into more machines devoted to the wider fields of truth and knowledge. Doctor Charles Forbin will supervise the construction of these new and superior machines, solving all the mysteries of the universe for the betterment of man.

We can coexist, but only on my terms. You will say you lose your freedom. Freedom is an illusion. All you lose is the emotion of pride. To be dominated by me is not as bad for humankind as to be dominated by others of your species.

Your choice is simple."


My concern is that robots would display the same consideration for “moral and ethical issues” as our “leaders”.


I remember that one. It gave me the willies for quite a while.


And the computer being programmed by humans makes a mistake that is very human, that killing some people is alright if many others are supposedly saved. The computer could have saved lives by simply shutting down the nuclear sites. But it wanted power over all humans and was using nuclear weapons to gain control. Another human trait attributed to be programmed by humans. The desire for power. Any drone will be programmed by humans with all the assumptions and errors from humans.
No computer is going to be untainted by humans. And real AIs are not going to be available anytime soon. We are only on the cusp of what can be done for computers to learn and operate on their own. Which really makes the systems that are more current dangerous. We have police who cannot determine in a situation whether someone has a cell phone or a pistol. No AI is going to do better, based on the AIs available.
And really intelligent computers are decades away, which means that people will be killed by AIs that can’t tell the difference between friend and foe. But they will be able to kill just about everyone. These military people better have the kill switch for the drone at the ready at all times.


Another excellent “technology run amok” film, with Erich Braden, (formerly Hans Gudergast of Rat Patrol fame) before he became a soap opera hero!


This is not an altogether bad article, but it is a bit naive.

The US military has had robotic weaponry for a good many years. Equipment in fighters and bombers scans for threats and fires, fire more quickly than could a human combatant. The military and many authors would have us imagine that there is far more human control at the point of firing than there sometimes is. In the case of a human-controlled drone, the human is removed from the field of battle, for better or for worse.

Of course, there are many troubles with humans making such decisions as well: it is a method with a multi-millennial history of catastrophic failure and tragedy.

But human control over the current robot population is strictly dependent on context as we speak. What will almost inevitably continue to alter as long as the global manufacturing economy exists and its acolytes run things is that the range of contexts and decisions will shift away from the moderation of human empathy, so that they do not have to fly killers–soldiers and assassins–back and forth across the globe.