RobotRepublicgina smith — We’ve been covering the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots’ effort to get the UN to ban autonomous weapons at its conference this week in Geneva. But if you’re still on the fence about this being a good idea, there is something you need to see.

It’s called Slaughterbots.

Yes, it’s overly dramatic. And yes, it’s chock full of hyperbole, pregnant pauses and other B-movie type tricks to get you to watch the horror unfold.

But watch it, anyway. It is scary as hell for a lot of reasons — the main one being that it doesn’t seem far-fetched at all. And the technology at its center? It’s here now or coming soon.

Our patron, the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, is standing by the campaign’s efforts to get the UN to ban autonomous weapons in the same way it’s banned chemical weapons. As our Noel Sharkey said to The Guardian, the point “isn’t to stifle innovation in artificial intelligence and robotics …  and we have no desire whatever to totally ban autonomous systems in the civilian or military world.

“Rather we see an urgent need to prevent automation of the critical functions for selecting targets and applying violent force without human deliberation and to ensure meaningful human control for every attack.”

Sharkey is, as usual, leading an effort with a lot of momentum behind it — and a ton of support.

More than 70 countries have so far weighed in with Geneva to say “Countries do not have time … to waste just talking about this subject,” added Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch.

Over the last few years, there have been a number of petitions and other, less organized calls to get the UN to nip autonomous weapon use in the bud. This week, more than 70 countries are participating in a week-long conference right in the UN’s Geneva backyard.

But we need quicker action. And we need the world’s UN member nations to be courageous and put some power behind those ∑ords. Anything short of a historic international treaty such as those that ban chemical and biolaogical weapons is not enough, points out MIT’s Max Tegmark.

Toby Walsh, the University of South Wales roboticist whose led several petitions against drone weapons, summed up the situation. Like other leaders in AI and robotics, he has no doubt that eventuallly nations will move to ban autonomus weapons. That’s not the question. The question is whether they will move to do this soon enough:

“The question is whether is whether [countries] have the courage of conviction to do it now, or whether we will have to wait for people to die first,” he said.”

Watch RobotRepublic all week long for more on the Geneva conference and what RobotRepublic’s Noel Sharkey and our other colleagues have to say on the matter.

For RobotRepublic, I’m Gina Smith.