Lethal autonomous weapons systems described as “killer robots” are to be debated at a United Nations (UN) Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) meeting next week.

As the BBC reports, experts on the subject will gather in Geneva for four days, starting on May 13, to discuss the various issues and ramifications surrounding the potential technology. The first session will be debated between Professor Noel Sharkey, chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC), and Professor Ron Arkin from Georgia Tech.

Prof Sharkey said it can’t be guaranteed that autonomous weapon systems will consistently comply with international law. “Nations aren’t talking to each other about this, which poses a big risk to humanity,” he told the BBC. Prof Arkin, meanwhile, believes armed robots could reduce the number of casualties in times of war. “I support a moratorium until that end is achieved, but I do not support a ban at this time,” he added.

The meeting will produce a draft report for the annual CCW meeting to review in November. “[It] may see nations renew the mandate to continue the experts’ discussions or move to a different phase of a more formal negotiating process,” a guide by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots reads.

If you’re interested in learning more, the following TEDx talk held by Prof Sharkey in Sheffield last year seems a good place to start.

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➤ ‘Killer robots’ to be debated at UN [BBC News]

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