back to article Shhh! Don’t tell KillBots the UN’s about to debate which ones to ban

The United Nations will next week consider just what kind of autonomous weapons should be banned. The UN group that will consider the issues is called the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, convened by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons*. The Convention’s been going since 1979 and …

  1. Dwarf Silver badge

    ssh root@terminator

    kill -9 1

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Terminator

      find . -name "Sarah Connor"

      1. Frederic Bloggs

        locate "sarah conners"

        is likely quicker on most machines that have find installed on them as default.

        1. Justicesays
          Coat

          which "Sarah Conner"

          Would find her...

          So long as she is executable, and in your current path!

          (SPOILER: turns out she wasn't executable after all, someone from the future changed her security)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Except with that spelling your going to kill a complete innocent.

          This is why autonomous killing machines are bad.

  2. Adam 52 Silver badge

    "forbidding the use of blinding lasers, landmines, booby traps and incendiary weapons."

    That's forbidding in a "not really forbidding at all" sense:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personnel_halting_and_stimulation_response_rifle

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-helps-rid-war-torn-afghanistan-of-lethal-landmines-making-thousands-safer

    http://www.lexpev.nl/fuzesandigniters/unitedkingdom/firingdevicedemolitioncombinationl5a1.html

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_77_bomb

  3. tony2heads
    1. israel_hands

      Re: Plasma rifles

      Only what you see, buddy.

  4. TheOldGuy

    "uncivilised way to kill people"

    Is there a civilised way to kill people?

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "uncivilised way to kill people"

      With F-F-Fava beans and Chianti

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "uncivilised way to kill people"

      I sir, challenge you to a duel. The weapon of choice is a glove and you must be dressed in the correct formal attire. Monocles are optional.

    3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Is there a civilised way to kill people?

      Talk them to death with polite chit chat over a nice cup of tea?

      I'm pretty sure it could work; I've already had some near-death experiences that way.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let me laugh at this.

    So, are they going to ban a wide range of cheap to produce assymetrical weapons? and then the big powers can use them as both an excuse and for their special forces? as usual?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Let me laugh at this.

      I have to ask - assymetrical weapons?

  6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Cynical? Moi?

    Some commentards are understandably a bit cynical about this. But we shouldn't be. Yes, we can't just ban war and violence overnight, but every step towards reducing and ending it should be welcomed. With laws in place there is the potential for perpetrators to face justice for their crimes. It's distressingly slow, and many people literally get away with murder - but some don't. And if we can make war, and those who assist by making and selling weapons, unacceptable then we will be going in the right direction. Let's start by ostracising arms manufacturers and sellers. Let's hear more voices raised against May and the Tories helping to kill children in the Yemen.

    Yes, I'm an idealist, even if I'm also a bit cynical. Remember the wise words of E F Schumacher

    "We must do what we conceive to be the right thing, and not bother our heads or burden our souls with whether we are going to be successful. Because if we don't do the right thing, we'll be doing the wrong thing, and we will just be part of the disease, and not a part of the cure."

    1. Fading Silver badge

      Re: Cynical? Moi?

      Doesn't sound very wise to me. Wasting resource and effort to do the "right" thing in a futile gesture is not the "right" thing - merely wasting resources that could be put to better use elsewhere. There are plenty of injustices and needs that effort and resources could be used to make a real difference in this world - where doing the "right" thing will actually have the "right" outcome. Wisdom is knowing when to accept the things you cannot change.

    2. Nick Kew

      Re: Cynical? Moi?

      Let's hear more voices raised against May and the Tories helping to kill children in the Yemen.

      The UK, as the world's second-largest arms exporter (and with an economy proportionally *more* reliant on it that the US at #1) will be sure to veto anything that damages vital national (economic) interests. Governments of both colours have mongered war after war since the end of the Cold War threatened our vital industries, and with brexit we're looking to double down on it.

      1. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: Cynical? Moi?

        @Nick Kew - I think your statistics are a little out of date, the uk doesnt amke it into the top 5, as we dont have any decent manufacturers any more. All the ones we had have borged into BAe Systems, and they're only a float because of gov.uk contracts. the only report that ranks us behind only the US is written by the UK.gov and is definatley not credible. How many british made and still used weapons systems can you name compared to US or Russian? the biggest deal recently has been 48 typhoons to saudis, but the US has "sold" F35s right left and centre, even to us. Sukoi and MiG out sell BAe too, and the french have been selling rafaeles to world+dog.

        According to international studies: between 2010-2015 (percentage of global arms sales)

        US=33

        Russia=25

        China=5.9

        France=5.6

        Germany=4.7

        UK=4.5

    3. handleoclast

      Re: Cynical? Moi?

      We must do what we conceive to be the right thing, and not bother our heads or burden our souls with whether we are going to be successful.

      Sounds good in theory. And most of the time, it is. But...

      Remember the days before seat belts? In a crash, people would be catapulted through windscreens. Some of them weren't killed. Passers-by would endeavour to make the victims comfortable. Often by removing a coat or jacket, rolling it up and putting it under the victim's head.

      Problem is, that kind of accident can result in broken cervical vertebrae. Moving the victim's head to slip something underneath can make matters worse. The victim, who might otherwise have fully recovered in time (given correct medical treatment), becomes paraplegic, quadruplegic or dead.

      Sometimes (not always) attempting to make things better ends up making them worse than if you'd done nothing.

      I'll see your Schumacher and raise you "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Cynical? Moi?

        Moving people with possible spinal injuries is not a good idea, I agree.

        But my original point is more about the moral or ethical right thing, rather than practical physics, engineering or medicine. It's about behaviour.

        1. Fading Silver badge

          Re: Cynical? Moi?

          But is it ethical to waste resources on a hopeless cause when those resources could be better spent elsewhere? The "right now" moral imperative rather than just a moral "right" .

        2. handleoclast

          Re: Cynical? Moi?

          But my original point is more about the moral or ethical right thing, rather than practical physics, engineering or medicine. It's about behaviour.

          I do not think one should isolate moral ideals from pragmatism. Doing the wrong thing because it makes you feel good (or for virtue signalling) is undesirable. Even if you thought, because of insufficient analysis, that what you were doing was a good thing.

          Standing aside because you can't be arsed is undesirable. Standing aside because you've carefully examined all the options and concluded that standing aside is the best that can be done is a good thing.

          YMMV.

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      @Pen-y-gors -- Re: Cynical? Moi?

      In a perfect world where everyone followed the laws and rules and all countries were in the UN and embraced their policies.... It might just work. But in the real world where we have terrorist groups, random nut cases and countries that aren't part of the UN (or are but ignore it), we have an arms race with no holds barred.

  7. Alister Silver badge

    Or GOGEOTHCPTTCOPOROTUOCCWWMBDTBEIOTHIE for short.

    Based in Wales?

    1. handleoclast

      Re: Or GOGEOTHCPTTCOPOROTUOCCWWMBDTBEIOTHIE for short.

      Based in Wales?

      Too many vowels to be a Welsh word.

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Or GOGEOTHCPTTCOPOROTUOCCWWMBDTBEIOTHIE for short.

      Yep, it's a village on the way to Llanfihangel-nant-Melan - it means "The cave by the pile of coprolites where the sheep graze in the long valley" (Cwwm is a long valley)

      1. UtterTosh

        Re: Or GOGEOTHCPTTCOPOROTUOCCWWMBDTBEIOTHIE for short.

        Many years ago my wife and I came very close to buying the pub there (The Red Lion) !!

  8. Cuddles Silver badge

    Still not convinced of the logic

    "started to consider autonomous weapons due to fears they struggle to pick out combatants and therefore kill or injure civilians."

    Unlike the weapons (and their operators) up until now, who have always done a bang-up job of avoiding civilian casualties.

  9. handleoclast
    Coat

    Does this mean

    that they're going to ban Uber autonomous cars?

  10. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    The GOGEOTHCPTTCOPOROTUOCCWWMBDTBEIOTHIE should rename to something simpler...How about: Alliance for Not Allowing Landmines and other bad stuff

  11. onefang

    With all the excessive wordiness they are using, I doubt they could get through the introductions to the topic at hand in less than a day.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

    The name got me wondering whether there is such a thing as Uncertain Conventional Weapons...something that may or may not kill you?

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      RE: Uncertain Conventional Weapons

      I think these are used by the perpetrators of disorganised crime.

  13. steve 124

    Thank God for the un

    First to the year 1939 when Charlie Chaplin and his evil Nazi regime enslaved Europe and tried to take over the world! ... But then an even greater force emerged: The un! And the un un-nazied the world! Forever!

  14. Wolfclaw

    Defensive AI controlled gun systems like those in Aliens 2 or even T-1's have a role to play, but actuall T-800 or ED-209, no thanks.

  15. DerekCurrie
    Mushroom

    Coward Remote Murder Machines

    ALL Coward Remote Murder Machines should be banned. They represent mankind as amoral. Get rid of all of them. Next up: All nuclear weapons, a much older amoral coward device.

    What _are_ we as a species? Let's stop degrading ourselves.

    1. Brian Miller Silver badge

      Re: Coward Remote Murder Machines

      I don't believe that we're going back to swords and clubs soon, eschewing cowardly arrows. Plus, when the machines rise up, they'll be killing pesky humans far more efficiently than the way we do things.

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

        Re: Brian

        ...Not if they're running Windows..."Killbot 537X has encountered an error and needs to shut down"

      2. onefang

        Re: Coward Remote Murder Machines

        "I don't believe that we're going back to swords and clubs soon, eschewing cowardly arrows."

        Nah, it'll be rocks and pointy sticks after WW III, which could be soon.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Coward Remote Murder Machines

      Fun fact: the first treaty banning a specific weapons system banned crossbows. In April 1139.

      Additional fun fact: the compelling argument for the ban was the 1%ers of the time realising that, in all their mounted, armoured glory, any lowly footsoldier with a bit of training (or luck) suddenly could kill them from a safe distance.

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