The film “Immoral Code” explores the danger of killing machines

Over the past decade, concern has grown over the growing prospect of weapon systems that, once activated, would select and attack targets without further human intervention.

The Campaign to stop killer robots, co-founded by Human Rights Watch in 2012, works to ban the use of autonomous weapons systems that could have a devastating impact on civilians in armed conflict. The campaign released a 23-minute documentary titled “Immoral codewhich explores the risks of allowing machines to make life or death decisions.

The film shows how human decision making is influenced by our individual moral codes which stem from our background, upbringing, values ​​and beliefs. It shows that reducing these decisions to automated machines presents fundamental ethical, legal and moral concerns.

“One of the fundamental objections to the use of machines making the decision to use force, or who to kill or target, is that they can never understand the value of human life,” says Dr. Thompson Chengeta, international law expert and leading Africa campaigner for the Stop Killer Robots campaign, in the film. “It’s a value judgment that only humans can understand.”

Pressure is mounting on governments to open negotiations on a new international treaty that would require meaningful human control over these weapons and prohibit the development and use of autonomous weapons systems lacking such control.

A 2021 report by Human Rights Watch and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School called for the strengthening of international humanitarian law to address growing concerns about the autonomy of weapon systems.

Governments must recognize the urgency of moving from discussing this challenge to launching negotiations on a legally binding treaty to ban killer robots.

As Stop Killer Robots website cautions: “Technology should be used to empower everyone, not reduce us – to stereotypes, labels or just a pattern of 1s and 0s.”

James G. Williams