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Summary:

Of those surveyed, 55 percent said they oppose the development of autonomous weapons. Active military personnel were the most vehemently opposed.

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In a blow to would-be Terminators everywhere, a majority of Americans oppose robots that could autonomously choose to kill a human.

Of the 1,000 people surveyed by University of Massachusetts-Amherst researchers, 55 percent said they oppose autonomous weapons, with most answering “strongly opposed.” Almost 20 percent answered “not sure.” Answers were consistent across political affiliations, ages, genders, regions, education and income levels, but not service status: 73 percent of active military personnel responded with disapproval. Language such as “stopping killer robots” and “banning fully autonomous weapons” garnered similar responses.

“People are scared by the idea of removing humans from the loop, not simply scared of the label,” survey head Charli Carpenter said in a release. Carpenter is an associate professor of political science who studies ethical debate stirred by autonomous weapons.

Survey responses indicated that people worry about malfunctions, a robot’s lack of a moral conscience, human rights abuse, the ability to distinguish between targets and civilians and losing control of machines. Supporters often mentioned the need to protect troops.

Lethal autonomous robots are not in use yet, but all the ingredients are there. Drones, for example, can operate autonomously or lethally when instructed.

A United Nations expert recently urged a preemptive ban on the weapons. He said they could make make war more likely and violate accepted standards for how to treat human life.

“While drones still have a ‘human in the loop’ who takes the decision to use lethal force, LARs have on-board computers that decide who should be targeted,” U.N. expert Christof Heyns told the Human Rights Council in May. “Their deployment may be unacceptable because no adequate system of legal accountability can be devised for the actions of machines.”

  1. I disagree. Imagine our troops going into a battle in a village in Afghanistan. Each soldier has a radio tag (and a backup) that identifies him/her as a friendly. Anyone else with a gun that has been used is the enemy (determined by thermal imaging). Robots can be set on disable or lethal force. Each individual robot (or all of them) can be suspended if they don’t stay in communication with ops or a designated soldier or two.

    We can develop the right safeguards. I’d be happy to see robots as the first wave in a battle. More of our troops would come home alive.

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  2. By the way, I’d also like to see focus on robot firemen and policemen.

    A robot fireman could enter a burning building carrying oxygen masks to people who were trapped and then help them to get out.

    A robot policeman could walk up to the boat in Boston and tell the little terrorist brother that he was under arrest. It could do a close-up scan of what he was carrying, or not carrying. No need for cops to fire 100 rounds trying to execute an unarmed perp.

    The future for robots is huge.

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  3. David Knowles Friday, June 21, 2013

    I wonder what the result of a alternative question on killer robots would be

    Which would you find more acceptable, a killer robot being destroy or a flesh and blood American solder being killed on the ?

    To the solders

    Do you want to loose your jobs to robots?

    You would probably find 100% of solders saying no.

    Who would you prefer to die defusing a car bomb in Boston, a robot or a human?

    Survey responses indicated that people worry about malfunctions, a robot’s lack of a moral conscience, human rights abuse, the ability to distinguish between targets and civilians and losing control of machines. Supporters often mentioned the need to protect troops.

    Humans suffer from the same malfunctions and yet we still send them into the battle, and most people support the army and the majority of the wars they are sent on.

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  4. David Knowles Friday, June 21, 2013

    I wonder what the result of a alternative question on killer robots would be

    Which would you find more acceptable, a killer robot being destroy or a flesh and blood American solder being killed on the ?

    To the solders

    Do you want to loose your jobs to robots?

    You would probably find 100% of solders saying no.

    Who would you prefer to die defusing a car bomb in Boston, a robot or a human?

    Survey responses indicated that people worry about malfunctions, a robot’s lack of a moral conscience, human rights abuse, the ability to distinguish between targets and civilians and losing control of machines. Supporters often mentioned the need to protect troops.

    Humans suffer from the same malfunctions and yet we still send them to the battle, and most people support the army and the majority of the wars they are sent on.

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  5. “Of those surveyed, 55 percent said..”

    aka

    “550 people said…”

    So…

    So what?

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