Long the stuff of science fiction, autonomous weapons systems, known as « killer robots, » are poised to become a reality, thanks to the rapid development of artificial intelligence.
In response, international organizations have been intensifying calls for limits or even outright bans on their use. The U.N General Assembly in November adopted the first-ever resolution on these weapons systems, which can select and attack targets without human intervention.
To shed light on the legal and ethical concerns they raise, the Gazette interviewed Bonnie Docherty, lecturer on law at Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), who attended some of the U.N. meetings. Docherty is also a senior researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.