As frightening a thought as it may be to many, a drone designed for use in warfare with mass killing capabilities may one day be available thanks to advances in technology. A recent video created by those who are pushing for a ban on autonomous weapons, depicts innocent civilians being slaughtered by a swarm of killer drones. Entitled ‘slaughterbots’, the video has gained worldwide attention and has certainly bolstered the argument against the use of such weapons in warfare (or in any circumstances), but just how realistic is this?
What is the main premise of the video, ‘slaughterbots’?
The theme and central message that the video intends to convey, is the risk of future militaries developing and creating micro drones that are fully autonomous and have the capability to fly towards an individuals’ head, cause an explosion, and kill the victim. The videos creators also wanted to highlight what they perceived as being the very real threat of these killer drones somehow getting into the hands of terrorists.
Experts have stated that these combat drones are in fact, much easier to create than something like a self-driving car, and require far less standards of performance than them, making their development a very real possibility.
How does a ‘slaughterbot’ work?
While military drones in use today are generally controlled remotely, other drones used for recreational purposes are becoming increasingly autonomous, making the prospect of a drone such as a so-called ‘slaughterbot’ being autonomous and equipped with facial recognition technology as portrayed in the video, more possible.
How significant is the threat of such drones getting into the wrong hands?
We need to be realistic when assessing the risk of drones that can kill on mass, being used by terrorists, and while we can enforce preventative measures to try and avoid such a risk, we will never be able to stop the threat entirely. Just as a terrorist can make a bomb, or drive a car into a crowd of people, little can be done to stop them from turning recreational drones, into basic but deadly killing weapons.
One proposal for a solution to the threat, involves a legally binding treaty that places a ban on all autonomous weapons, but it’s hard to see how this could ever tackle the very real problems mankind is facing as weapons become increasingly autonomous.
The increased development and use of autonomous drones as weapons of war, raises many questions about the moral role of humans in warfare, and about the basic and generally accepted laws of combat, risk and controllability. However, advances in technology mean that ‘slaughterbots’ may soon be in use, and there could be precious little we can realistically do to prevent this from happening.