The issue of 'killer robots' one day posing a threat to humans has been discussed at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
The discussion took place on 21 January during a panel organised by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (CSKR) and Time magazine, which asked the question: "What if robots go to war?"
Participants in the discussion included former UN disarmament chief Angela Kane, BAE Systems chair Sir Roger Carr, artificial intelligence (AI) expert Stuart Russell and robot ethics expert Alan Winfield.
Despite coming from very different sectors, the participants agreed on one thing during their hour-long discussion - autonomous weapons (or 'killer robots') pose dangers to humans, and swift diplomatic action is needed to stop their development.
The panelists were quick to distinguish an autonomous weapon from something like a drone, which is unmanned but ultimately controlled by a human.
Autonomous weapons, which are currently being developed by the US, UK, China, Israel, South Korea and Russia, will be capable of identifying targets, adjusting their behaviour in response to that target, and ultimately firing - all without human intervention.
Sir Carr, the weapons industry representative, said weapons like this would be "devoid of responsibility" and would have "no emotion or sense of mercy."
Davos 2015 in numbers
Davos 2015 in numbers
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The Swiss resort is the highest town in Europe.
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The permanent population of Davos.
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The year the annual forum was founded by Klaus Schwab, a German-born business professor at the University of Geneva (pictured speaking).
It was initially named the European Management Forum.
World Economic Forum/Wikimedia Commons
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The year the annual forum changed its name to the World Economic Forum.
5/9 Davos 2015 in numbers
The number of private jets expected to enter Swiss airspace to fly billionaires and government leaders to Davos.
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The number of participants attending the World Economic Forum.
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Participants will represent more than 100 countries around the world.
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The number of heads of state and government in attendance.
Pictured is Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
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Women are far outnumbered by men at the World Economic Forum, representing less than a fifth of all participants.
Pictured is Queen Mathilde of Belgium.
"If you remove ethics and judgement and morality from human endeavour whether it is in peace or war, you will take humanity to another level which is beyond our comprehension," he said.
The discussion came after more than 3,000 experts from the worlds of science and robotics signed an open letter calling for a ban on 'killer robots'.
Currently, the CSKR is lobbying to get the issue of autonomous weapons on the table of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which has previously banned the use of weapons like landmines, booby traps and blinding laser weapons in warfare.
Taking the issue to Davos, where around 2,500 of the world's top business leaders, politicians and intellectuals meet every year, should help their campaign gain more traction among the world's decision makers.
It's not yet possible to build truly 'intelligent' autonomous robots, so the weaponisation of them is still far away. However, some nations already use semi-robotic weapons in their militaries.
South Korea has a network of automatic sentry guns along the border with North Korea, which use cameras and heat sensors to detect and track humans all by themselves. However, they still need a human to tell them to fire.Reuse content