Current weapons systems are supposed to have some degree of human oversight. But Heyns notes that "the power to override may in reality be limited because the decision-making processes of robots are often measured in nanoseconds and the informational basis of those decisions may not be practically accessible to the supervisor. In such circumstances humans are de facto out of the loop and the machines thus effectively constitute LARs," or killer robots.
Separately, another U.N. expert, British lawyer Ben Emmerson, is preparing a special investigation for the U.N. General Assembly this year on drone warfare and targeted killings.
His probe was requested by Pakistan, which officially opposes the use of U.S. drones on its territory as an infringement on its sovereignty but is believed to have tacitly approved some strikes in the past. Pakistani officials say the drone strikes kill many innocent civilians, which the U.S. has rejected. The other two countries requesting the investigation were two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Russia and China.
In April, an alliance of activist and humanitarian groups led by Human Rights Watch launched the "Campaign to Stop Killer Robots" to push for a ban on fully autonomous weapons. The group applauded Heyns' draft report in a statement on its web site.
On the Web:
The U.N. draft report: http://www.ohchr.org
- LDS missionaries developing strategies to...
- Expelling Santa from school? Holiday...
- 50 things you might not know about 15 of your...
- 'Sound of Music' alive for 18.5 million viewers
- TV Review: Broadway wins in live 'Sound of...
- Space and religion: How believers view latest...
- Utahns react to death of Nelson Mandela
- Are extended warranties on gadgets worth the...
- Obama: Income inequality a defining... 106
- Notre Dame sues over health care law's... 31
- Fast-food strikes return amid push for... 31
- Colorado court hears discrimination... 29
- Fast food outlets planning strike for... 25
- Research: Native American genes have... 23
- Utahns react to death of Nelson Mandela 23
- Obama declares health care law is... 21