back to article UN report says killer bots could fight WAR WITHOUT END

The United Nations has called for the establishment of an international body to set guidelines for the development and use of lethal autonomous robotics (LARs), lest such machines go on a never-ending killing spree that plunges humanity into perpetual war. Judge for yourself if we're being colourful or exaggerating by reading …

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Anonymous Coward

These Yanks have been watching too many sci-fi films.

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Re: Yanks

RTFA, it's the UN not the US. Hell, we don't even like the UN.

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Terminator

Collateral Damage

The real risk is that the machines may just fight a never ending battle, with any and all humans in the way just "collateral damage". Until finally there remains none of us left, just our war machines endlessly reconstructing themselves for the next battle amid the ruins of our civilisation....

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Re: Collateral Damage

I remember there was a Justice League episode about something like this, but there has to be an earlier 'warbots carry on after creators are long dead'. Could the Register Book Club shed any light on the earliest known story of this ilk?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: warbots carry on

PKDick is the obvious author to cite here, but maybe there's earlier. Especially if you want to broaden warbots to include non-mechanicals. Hightly trained Newts, for example.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: warbots carry on

or perhaps Chadwick's "The Death Guard"?

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Re: warbots carry on

I'd suggest Philip K. Dick's "Autofac" (1954) as an early example of fully autonomous killbots.

Yes, the factories design, make and deploy war machines but the resulting harm to humanity is only collateral damage. The real purpose of the killbots is to beat other rival killbot factories to the resources for making still more killbots and consumer goods, thus using up the remaining resources ever faster.

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Alien

Berserkers

The Berserkers, obviously (from Fred Saberhagen's sci-fi universe). These are robotic spaceships that were left over from an ancient interstellar war, and continue to hunt and kill any intelligent life they detect. Resolving the Fermi paradox, and making active SETI (the intentional broadcasting of messages to the stars) a very bad idea...

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Childcatcher

Re: Collateral Damage

We already have "war without end" undertaken by human(oid) bots. The killing is indiscriminate and collateral damage is intentional as a means to cause terror. The only difference between this and autonomous mechanical killing machines is who's hand is on the trigger. We call ourselves civilized and there is no doubt we should stop remote attacks, but how can we with a knife at our throats?

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Terminator

Icon, for obvious reasons

There, someone had to do it.

Now tell me more about this SkyNet you are developing...

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Black Helicopters

Re: Icon, for obvious reasons

Skynet?

I thought they were developing the sentinal program. First they'll build sentinals to fight their wars for them, and then they'll build master mold to build the sentinals, and control them on their behalf.

That is when the world is truely doomed.

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Re: Icon, for obvious reasons

We're fine for the time being, where do you know that sells yellow wellies that big?

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Mushroom

Nor would robots torture, unless programmed to, or rape.

Bollocks. It will be programmed to do so. At least by someone.

That is part of the way war has been waged over the centuries. It has _ALWAYS_ been something willingly and knowingly deployed by the chain of command - either as "recereation" for the troops or as a deliberate policy to instill fear and compliance in the civilian population. The expectation that the chain of command will not program the mechanical soldiers to do it is beyond wishful thinking.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nor would robots torture, unless programmed to, or rape.

If these robots are made by the Japanese, they'll most definately have a rape setting, and quite possibly robotic tentacles.

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Re: Nor would robots torture, unless programmed to, or rape.

Voland's right hand, I don't quite agree with what you wrote. While there have been instances where the violation of civilian population was indeed commanded, I guess it's not the regular thing. Much more common is the creation of an ambience, where the moral compass of soldiers is switched off and such behaviour tolerated but not actually commanded.

In that sense it may indeed be a cleaner war if fought by robots. If they were programmed to, e.g. rape people*, there would be someone directly to blame and eventually prosecute.

*I think it wouldn't make much of a difference to a robot where it raped males or females.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nor would robots torture, unless programmed to, or rape.

@Evil Auditor

"...there would be someone directly to blame and eventually prosecute."

You've missed the point about fighting a War Without End.

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Permanent conflict? How so?

It's only permanent if the two sides are exactly balanced. A war like that is basically a challenge of industrial production capacity. Eventually, one of the two will manage to bomb more drone factories than the other, and then it's over.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Permanent conflict? How so?

I agree, it would only be temporary. Like the 110 million active landmines that are currently deployed around the world are only temporary.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Permanent conflict? How so?

The war is the 1% against the rest.

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Re: Permanent conflict? How so?

Recent wars haven't been won by bombing factories (production simply disperses)

Tanks can't run without fuel and guns don't work without bullets - if you attack and disrupt the means to manufacture and the resources to move troops you hold the winning cards. This is why infrastructure is regarded as a legitimate target during a war.

Similarly, a killbot factory can't do a thing if the power's off and fuel supplies are disrupted. No need to target the manufacturing facilities themselves.

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Re: Permanent conflict? How so?

"Similarly, a killbot factory can't do a thing if the power's off and fuel supplies are disrupted. No need to target the manufacturing facilities themselves."

So what if the killbot plant is under a mountain with its own power supply (preferably a reactor so fuel isn't an issue for years)? If the ammo is also made on-site, then about the only weak link would be fuel for the craft, which could have potential ways to get around bombardment as well.

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Mushroom

George Santayana had a point...

History is your best guide to what humans do, in all circumstances.

So, endless war it is, then....

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Re: George Santayana had a point...

Indeed, history would imply that humans are continually very good at war, conflict and weapons development throughout the ages. Even if we grew up enough to drop the 'race', 'tribe' and 'creed' things I'm not convinced humans wouldn't be able to find altogether new and exciting reasons to continue in that vein.

Imagine if, in the far off distant future, these legions of mechanoid warriors decided it might be fun to recreate 'meat bag' life forms, just for the fun of it, feeling the need for a little respite from continually blasting each other to bits. I mean, if we create them, then they will be made in out 'image' won't they.

But I wouldn't worry unduly, there will be all manner of safety devices and fail-safes built into these systems. After all we are so good at securing digital systems are we not.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: George Santayana had a point...

"So, endless war it is, then...."

It already is, courtesy of the Merkin war machine:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_States

For the glory of Washington. Strength and honour...

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Surely all killbots have a preset kill limit ?

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, it's in the option dialog window. There's text next to the input box "Set MaxKill Value:" that says "(0 = unlimited)"

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Terminator

Stupid pointless waffle

We're a long way off this being relevant but when it is, what good do you think having international laws will do?

"Excuse me, so-called Robotic War Machine. If you care to check the minutes of the UN conference April 2015, you'll find that your existence is in violation of international accord. Under the terms of the aforementioned accord I am now authorised to order you back to your jurisdiction of origin to inform your authorities to hand themselves over to the international courts and then to dismantle yours... AAAIIIAAARGH!!!!!!! MY FUCKING LIMBS!!!!!!!! JESUS FUCKING SHIIIIIIIIIIII......."

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Terminator

Re: Stupid pointless waffle

I'm guessing that if it is globally prohibited, there is a lot less incentive for private companies to develop such technology, thus delaying and/or reducing the risk for the Terminator movies coming true, or for that matter killdroids going into lethal deadlock.

Having said that, I also realize that there are superpowers who can provide enough cash anyway.

But who knows, even they might grow consciences. <insert jokes about temperature forecasts in hell here>

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You make war

sound like a bad thing.

Why cant we do what they suggested in "Year of the angry rabbit" - if the worlds economies do indeed need wars to keep them going just make the stuff and use it as landfill or a fuckoff fireworks display.

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Mushroom

Good job that global defence contractors have great security, and don't get hacked regularly.

Oh wait...

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Anonymous Coward

Pfft

Like the USA or Israel are going to give two fucks what the UN says.

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FAIL

Re: Pfft

"Like the USA or Israel are going to give two fucks what the UN says." Ever stop to think why the UNHRC, which is the body pushing this nonsense, is so concerned? That would be because the UNHRC is dominated by the World's dictators and the actual worst human rights abusers. They are scared witless of the last remaining Superpower - the US - having even better military capability and using it for "regime change".

You see, in the Saddam era they thought they could buy tech to put themsleves on an equal footing with the US, so they bought outdated Russian and Chinese tech, added or copied bits of Western tech, and produced their own tanks, missiles and planes. They all clapped themselves on their backs and puffed out their chests and proclaimed themselves able to fight off an attack by the US. Who cared about the UN Security Council or NATO? Then the two Gulf Wars showed that all that rent-a-tech work had been virtually pointless and that the US and NATO could pound a dictator's forces to scrap, no matter how invulnerable they thought they were.

What the Gulf Wars did reconfirm was that there are only two things that hold the US back - concern for their own people and concern not to be seen to do evil. Drones, especially intelligent or autonomous drones, would remove the problem of the US politicians having to worry about TV reports showing coffins coming home draped in US flags. There is no way the dictators can match the tech development capabilities of the US, and relying on Russia or China to supply reverse-engineered copies isn't the certainty it used to be, so their one last hope it to try and hold back US developments is by trying to make out all drone actions are "evil". Hence the UNHRC-led "make drones illegal" bitching.

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Re: Pfft

The Gulf Wars did indeed show the shortcomings of a mid-20th-century type army in the face of the latest military technology.

But Afghanistan (and before that, Vietnam) showed that technology is by no means invincible.

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Facepalm

Re: Kubla Cant Re: Pfft

"......But Afghanistan (and before that, Vietnam) showed that technology is by no means invincible." Sorry to burst your bubble, but what won the Vietnam War was the anti-war movement in the US and the North Vietnamese decision to play a long game war of attrition. The longer the war lasted the more US servicemen came home in coffins and the more "seen to be doing evil" propaganda was released by the anti-war movement. Politics forced the withdrawal of the US forces, following which the North Vietnamese resorted to a classic, armour-led invasion of South Vietnam (which would have failed had they tried it whilst the Yank forces were there). The actual US technological war was very successful - guided bombs, remote detection equipment, advances in night vision and targeting systems, automated attack systems for bombers, all came out of the Vietnam War. The North Vietnamese were simply a lot smarter than Saddam or Ghaddafi.

As for Afghanistan, I would have to point out the Taleban leaders are hiding in the hills, not ruling in Kahbul, and the drones are now hunting them out in the hills......

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kubla Cant Pfft

Still fighting the Vietnam War? Sucks to be you, but you lost. The North Vietnamese won, but the world didn't come to an end nor was Hawaii invaded by the communists. The whole war was based on lies and the US has never fully recovered.

Body counts? Quaint.

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FAIL

Re: AC Re: Kubla Cant Pfft

"Still fighting the Vietnam War?......" I didn't bring it up, but I'm quite willing to correct any misconceptions that have been spoonfed to you.

"..... Sucks to be you, but you lost....." Don't be silly, i'm not a Yank (or from an ANZAC country) or from South Vietnam so I am a neutral. From a purely military viewpoint, US forces can claim to have won every major engagement but their politicians lost the war. The British success in Malaysia (despite a number of classic military and political mistakes) shows that insurgencies of the day could be defeated.

".....The North Vietnamese won....." After the military failure of the 1968 Tet offensive the "unification through military victory" doctrine of North Vietnamese Communist Party Secretary Le Duan was accepted to be impossible as long as NV forces faced resolute US forces in numbers. As the NV Minister for Defence Vo Nguyen Giap had predicted it would. Giap had engineered the eviction of the French from their old colony of Indo-China. The Hanoi leadership was seriously depressed that their plan for a major invasion and co-ordinated uprising had failed - of the almost 100,000 NV regular troops committed, over 47,000 had been killed and not a single town in South Vietnam was under their control by the end of the Offensive. Even the unified Vietnamese post-war could not put a final figure on how many VC irregulars were killed during the Tet offensive, but what really worried Le Duan was that the only miltary success of Tet was the control the irregular VC gained in the countryside, and they listened to Giap not Le Duan.

The decision to launch a military invasion had allowed the US to concentrate their forces for the major engagement warfare they were best trained and equipped for. Battles like that at Hue showed the overwhelming superiority of US forces in such classic warfare. As Giap surmised, to defeat the South Vietnamese the NV had first to get the US to willingly abandon the South Vietnamese. But Giap had been party to the planning for Tet, which implies he planned for the failure of Tet to undermine Le Duan.

What Giap (or his Soviet Russian backers ) predicted was that American public opinion managed to turn a distinct US military victory into a political defeat. The Johnson administration simply could not convince the American public that Tet was a defeat for the Communist forces, leading to the resignation of Sec of Defence McNamara. At this point, General Westmoreland asked for increased US forces and the invasion of Laos. From a military point of view, Westmoreland was convinced that an US force could "occupy and pacify" not just Laos but Cambodia and North Vietnam, especially as the best NV regular forces and the majority of their armour had been destroyed during the Tet Offensive. From a military viewpoint, Westmoreland was correct in that a full US involvement could have defeated the military forces opposing, but to do so risked WW3. Russia had always seen Giap as their man and Le Duan as China's, and worked with Giap to change the NV strategy to one of prolonged guerrilla warfare backed up by a propaganda campaign in the West. Giap won the war through the long grind of guerrilla warfare and flat-out lying at the peace conferences in Paris.

"......but the world didn't come to an end nor was Hawaii invaded by the communists....." The reverse side of that is that China realised they were not just facing the US in Asia but also the machinations of Soviet Russia. The eventual deterioration of the relationship between China and the USSR led to the Soviet-backed Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and several mini border wars between China and the USSR. Eventually, the domino effect that we are now seeing is that of the trade between industrial nations and the gradual Westernisation and commercialisation of both Vietnam and China. I bet even Giap never foresaw a day when McDonalds, KFC or Starbucks would be in Ho Chi Minh City and Beijing (http://investvine.com/starbucks-goes-vietnam-mcdonalds-to-follow/). In a way you could say that America lost the war but eventually are winning the peace.

".....The whole war was based on lies and the US has never fully recovered." LOL! Both sides lied, you numpty! Whilst the Communists could claim they were never given the free and fair election they were promised after the removal of the French, they had no intention of ever letting any such election be fair and no further elections after they had got into power. When the North Vietnamese eventually invaded after the US withdrawal it was in direct breach of the terms of the peace agreement they signed in Paris. In 1968 Le Duan and his clique deliberately tried to limit Giap's influence by sending VC irregulars (who lionised Giap) on impossible attacks against US military targets, all part of the Communist infighting for the future control of the unified country. Giap himself, despite the standard Communist blather about "the people", callously sent his forces into engagements he knew they could not win, but which he knew would produce the US casualties to be used for propaganda by the peace movement (even Giap admits losing 500,000 Vietnamese in his attacks up to 1969, a figure that underlines how ready he was to sacrifice his own compared to the US's desire to avoid losing soldiers). And did the Vietnamese get the "workers' paradise" they were promised? ROFLMAO!

All of which has very little to do with the UNHRC's attempts to "outlaw" drone developments.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: AC Kubla Cant Pfft

Sorry, but you did bring up the Vietnam War.

If you are not a USian, my apologies. However you seem to believe that wars are won or lost by armies, and not by nations. Whether loss is by military defeat or political defeat, lost is lost, and North Vietnam won. The fact of peaceful trade now is proof the war was futile and meaningless.

Both sides lied? I never claimed otherwise. Isn't truth the first casualty of war?

Yes, all of your misdirected firepower has little to do with the UNHRC's attempts to outlaw drone developments. Do you enjoy hearing yourself speak as much as you enjoy typing?

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FAIL

Re: AC Kubla Cant Pfft

".....However you seem to believe that wars are won or lost by armies, and not by nations....." <Sigh> Do you sheeple ever stop to actually read the thread before bleating? My original response on 31st May was in response to Kubla Cant's suggestion that the US was lost the Vietnam War due to their high tech being beaten in the field by low tech. As I explained, this was clearly not the case, the War being lost due to political actions, the key one being that neither the US nor their allies "held the ground".

After a successful engagement, where their superior tech often meant a kill ratio of 10+:1 in their favour, US forces would retreat to their bases, leaving the VC and NVA in control of the countryside. One very good example of this is the Cu Chi tunnels, a system of shallow underground tunnels designed to allow the VC to move men and supplies around more safely hidden from the US's massive detection capabilities. In the areas controlled by the US Army, they never solved the problem as they would leave their bases, find a tunnel complex, maybe clear it, but then withdraw back to their bases, leaving the VC to regroup and repair the tunnels. Eventually, they tunnelled inside the US Army bases themselves. However, further north near the DMZ, the US Marines actually went into the tunnels and cleared them, then kept forces in the tunnels to deter the VC from returning. The difference was the tunnels were considered a minor irritant to the USMC, but a major problem for the US Army and Arvins.

The US largely failed to follow the simple principle of committing enough force to take and hold the ground, meaning the VC and NVA could keep on regrouping and attacking and grinding down the US political will to continue. Due to their spending most of their time in their bases, the average Vietnamese villager only saw Americans when they were on aggressive sweeps and patrols, which was not a good way to win hearts and minds. The effort to place embedded US Special Forces in villages with local militia and Arvins was half-arsed compared to the British efforts in Malaysia. Without control of the countryside, and political measures hamstringing efforts to cut the supply of war material to the VC and NVA in North Vietnam itself, the US politicians threw away the advantages that their superior technologies afforded them. You can see how the US learnt their lesson in their determination to get out and control areas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

People that claim the US high tech failed in Vietnam simply don't know the facts of the military side of the campaign. I can only assume it's a herd mentality, and that you get reassurance and comfort from each other's bleatings even if you have no clue about the matter being discussed. I note that you are unable to counter the historical facts presented, probably because your knowledge of the Vietnam War is limited to a few vague memories you have of watching Oliver Stone movies. I bet you'd never even heard of the Cu Chi tunnels.

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Civilised war

"The report does also point out that LARs might make war a little less uncivilised, ..."

I don't know why, but the concept of a civilised war gives me the heebie jeebies.

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Re: Civilised war

How about a war of agreed balance? Yesterday we bombed one of your cities and in return you get to bomb one of ours of equal size and value.

I'm sure I've read or watched something where this was played out. Can't remember where though.

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Unhappy

Re: Civilised war

An American thinktank (possibly the Rand Corporation) cooked up that concept in the run up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I think they also coined the term 'megadeath'.

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Mushroom

Re: Civilised war

Wasn't there a Star Trek episode where the war was "computerised" and if you were informed you were a casualy you had to report to a termination centre but there was no actual physical damage. It might have actually been called War Without End.

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Re: Civilised war

Yes, from the original series: "A Taste of Armageddon".

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Re: Civilised war

possibly this film

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058083/

which is awesome

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Re: Civilised war

Yeah it was probably Fail-Safe. The version from 2000 is a bit better in my opinion, because it was done live. The film's pretty badass though.

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War No 81Q

Lets have our drones fight their drones, out over the sea, and nobody needs to be harmed.

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Re: War No 81Q

That assumes the other guy is going to play by the rules and just go home after all his drones are destroyed.

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Terminator

Please put down your weapon. You have 20 seconds to comply.

I think you'd better do what he says.

"You now have 15 seconds to comply."

Uh-oh...

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Mushroom

2000 AD

ABC Warriors

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Joke

Clearly in such a situation as perpetual war - you would just have to encourage the killbots to sit down and play a game of tic-tac-toe .......

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