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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/23/21

When robots decide on life and death

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Message Olof Klugman

From Tidningensyre

Creech women in black carrying caskets
Creech women in black carrying caskets
(Image by Ann Wright)
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They are dressed in black in the desert heat at Creech air force base, one of the US command centers for armed drones. In their hands are the small coffins marked with Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen -- countries where American drones have extinguished several lives.

Ann Wright is one of those who in this way wants to remind the employees at the facility about the consequences of the business thousands of miles away. For three decades she has served the US government as an officer and diplomat. When she this Friday in March 2015 is among those who are not satisfied with the quiet demonstration but decide to block the traffic at the command center, the police intervene and take her to the arrest in Las Vegas.

It is to the peace movement that Ann Wright dedicates her time, after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 became the last straw for her cup and she resigned from the Foreign Ministry. She has not regretted.

"My voice is more powerful outside the state apparatus than inside," says Ann Wright from her home in Hawaii.

Autonomous weapons soon here

Drones are her specialty. Not the clever creatures who fly blood to the sick in hard-to-reach places in Rwanda or find people who have disappeared in the Swedish forest. The drones Ann Wright is interested in do not save lives, they drop bombs and fire missiles thousands of miles from the command centers they are controlled from.

"It becomes easier to put up with the war when your own young men and women sit in an air-conditioned room and look at a computer screen," she says.

Maybe that's just the beginning. The drones and other unmanned weapon systems that are already a very tangible reality require a person to press the button for the weapons to be fired. But soon the completely autonomous weapons can be here, those that are pre-programmed to both identify targets and neutralize them. Or to put it bluntly: the weapons that themselves decide who will die and who will live.

Ann Wright demonstrates outside the US State Department, where she herself has served as a diplomat for 16 years.
Ann Wright demonstrates outside the US State Department, where she herself has served as a diplomat for 16 years.
(Image by Koa Books)
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Fully autonomous weapons can be drones that make their own decisions about firing missiles and dropping bombs, but also about, for example, submarines or armored vehicles. In short, any type of weapon can become autonomous.

With completely autonomous weapons, or killer robots as they are also called, the thresholds are lowered further to embark on military adventures. Thus, the world's conflicts will increase, fears Daan Kayser, who works for the Dutch peace organization Pax and the international campaign Stop killer robots, stop the killer robots.

Daan Kayser also warns of a spiraling arms race in which the United States and China in particular are inciting each other to spend ever-increasing sums to stay at the forefront of the development of autonomous weapons systems.

"Concerned about developing the weapons as quickly as possible, they might not think so much about the consequences," he says.

Contributes to an unstable world

Daan Kayser's bleak future scenario does not end there. The difficulty of determining who is behind an attack contributes to a more unstable world that is more difficult to see. In addition, the technology is cheap to copy once it is in place, and can be spread to both smaller countries and terrorist groups. Thus, the world political game plan can change fundamentally, with increased tensions as a result, according to Daan Kayser. This does not mean that he longs for the time when the United States was the sole superpower.

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Olof Klugman is a political reporter for the Swedish online news outlet Syre Mediehuset Gron Press. Translated from Swedish, this means "Oxygen: Media House Green Press." Mediehuset Grön Press publishes newspapers for everyone who wants to (more...)

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When robots decide on life and death

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