Is Israel's Iron Dome the precursor to futuristic 'killer robots'?

Human Rights Watch argues that “technology is moving in the direction” of creating “fully autonomous weapons.”

By JPOST.COM STAFF
April 9, 2015 22:56
1 minute read.
Iron dome

Soldiers stand near the Iron Dome missile defense system outside Tel Aviv.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

Are we on the verge of manufacturing armies of self-aware “killer robots” that could operate autonomously and without the direction of humans?

According to a new report issued by Human Rights Watch, governments ought to ban the use of “killer robots” for fear that their use raises “serious moral and legal concerns because they would possess the ability to select and engage their targets without meaningful human control.”

HRW, which published the report jointly with Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, argues that “technology is moving in the direction” of creating “fully autonomous weapons.”

The report cited the Iron Dome anti-rocket system used by the IDF most prominently during the recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aircraft Industries, Iron Dome intercepts incoming rockets and projectiles by using a mechanism that is programmed to automatically respond to threatening munitions.

HRW argues that the development of “killer robots” would be problematic since they would lack human traits such as “judgment, compassion, and intentionality.”

“Fully autonomous weapons themselves cannot substitute for responsible humans as defendants in any legal proceeding that seeks to achieve deterrence and retribution,” the report argues.

The development and deployment of these kinds of futuristic weapons would allow governments and their militaries to evade legal responsibility for any mishaps that may occur in foreign countries, the rights group argues.


“A fully autonomous weapon could commit acts that would rise to the level of war crimes if a person carried them out, but victims would see no one punished for these crimes,” the report’s lead author, Bonnie Docherty, argued.

Docherty serves as HRW’s senior arms division researcher.

“The lack of accountability adds to the legal, moral and technological case against fully autonomous weapons and bolsters the call for a preemptive ban,” she said.

Two years ago, Nobel Laureate Jody Williams launched a campaign titled “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.”

"If war is reduced to weapons attacking without human beings in control, it is going to be civilians who are going to bear the brunt of warfare," said Williams.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot
March 19, 2019
Eisenkot: Hezbollah was planning to infiltrate Israel with 5,000 troops

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF