Governments should pre-emptively ban fully autonomous weapons because of the danger they pose to civilians in armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday.
The 50-page report, Losing Humanity: The Case Against Killer Robots, outlines concerns about these
fully autonomous weapons, which would inherently lack human qualities that provide legal and non-legal checks on the killing of civilians.
These future weapons, sometimes called "killer robots," would be able to choose and fire on targets without human intervention.
"Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far," said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. "Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimizing civilian deaths and injuries."
Human Rights Watch and the International Human Rights Clinic called for an international treaty that would absolutely prohibit the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons.
They also called on individual nations to pass laws and adopt policies as important measures to prevent development, production, and use of such weapons at the domestic level.
Fully autonomous weapons do not yet exist, and major powers, including the United States, have not made a decision to deploy them.
But high-tech militaries are developing or have already deployed precursors that illustrate the push toward greater autonomy for machines on the battlefield.
"It is essential to stop the development of killer robots before they show up in national arsenals," Goose said. "As countries become more invested in this technology, it will become harder to persuade them to give it up."