In Brief

An international survey conducted by the Open Roboethics initiative showed that a majority of people are against autonomous weapons, and also remotely controlled weapons like drones.

The Survey

There is a difference between technology that is controlled completely by human hands (such as drones, which are driven and discharged by human eyes) and intelligent robots that make their own decisions in relation to targets. The latter, many feel, should not be supported or even tolerated.

Bans on the military robots that are capable of such autonomy were recently called for in a letter posted by the Future of Life Institute, which was signed by such notable individuals as Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist; Elon Musk, founder of Tesla motors; Daniel Dennett, cognitive scientist; Steve Wozniak, Apple cofounder; and Demis Hassabis, Google DeepMind CEO (along with 39 other Google employees). And that is just the start of the list.

Now, according to a survey from researchers of the University of British Columbia, a majority of people are against the use of autonomous weapon systems, ones that make the decision to use lethal force without requiring human input. Notably, it seems that individuals are also against the use of remotely operated weapons systems, where a person in another location makes the decision on whether or not to fire, such as the unmanned aerial vehicle General Atomics MQ-1 Predator.

The study was done by the Open Robotethics initiative. The survey was conducted in 14 different languages, and received responses from over a 1000 participants from 54 different countries

The Results

As the study notes, “Given the humanitarian, social, political, economic, and technological ramifications of LAWS (Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems) worldwide, these results suggest that more international public engagement is necessary to support democratic decisions about what is appropriate when developing and using robotic weapons technologies.”

Although no representative number of responses were obtained from all 54 countries. The results nevertheless show that people are reluctant to support the development and use of lethal autonomous weapons. Several questions were asked about the legal status of LAWS, including banning the tech – you can read the full report here.