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Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons                                                                                 

20th December, 2021 International Relations


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Context: For the first time, a majority of the 125 nations that belong to an agreement called the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons said they wanted curbs on killer robots. But they were opposed by members that are developing these weapons, most notably the United States and Russia.

What is the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons?

  • Sometimes known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention.
  • It is a framework of rules that ban or restrict weapons considered to cause unnecessary, unjustifiable and indiscriminate suffering, such as incendiary explosives, blinding lasers and booby traps that don’t distinguish between fighters and civilians.
  • The convention has no provisions for killer robots.

What exactly are killer robots?

  • They are widely considered to be weapons that make decisions with little or no human involvement.
  • Rapid improvements in robotics, AI and image recognition are making such armaments possible.
  • The drones the United States has used extensively in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are not considered robots because they are operated remotely by people, who choose targets and decide whether to shoot.

Why are they considered attractive?

  • The weapons offer the promise of keeping soldiers out of harm’s way.
  • Make faster decisions than a human would, by giving more battlefield responsibilities to autonomous systems like pilotless drones and driverless tanks that independently decide when to strike.

What are the objections?

  • It is morally repugnant to assign lethal decision making to machines, regardless of technological sophistication.
  • A machine can not differentiate an adult from a child, a fighter from a civilian.
  • It raise ethical concerns for society about substituting human decisions about life and death with sensor, software and machine processes.