Could a Drone Kill You on Its Own?

Drones are among the fastest-growing concerns of citizens and governments worldwide. The U.S. has taken the lead in using them militarily for attacks and assassination, generating extensive criticism and promoting a debate over whether the policy reduces or increases terrorism. Israel, too, has extensively used military drones, and China has admitted contemplating it. Now worries have emerged among rights activists and others that the decision over whether or not to kill may itself be delegated to the drones.

Drone image via Shutterstock
Drone image via Shutterstock
Drone image via Shutterstock

Drones are among the fastest-growing concerns of citizens and governments worldwide. The U.S. has taken the lead in using them militarily for attacks and assassination, generating extensive criticism and promoting a debate over whether the policy reduces or increases terrorism. Israel, too, has extensively used military drones, and China has admitted contemplating it. Now worries have emerged among rights activists and others that the decision over whether or not to kill may itself be delegated to the drones. The Daily Beast’s Joe Dzieza explains the state of play in detail. But while he writes as if drones have not yet been programmed to kill, I would be shocked if U.S. drone operators don’t already lock onto a target and let the drone decide when to shoot. The communications delays he describes would almost certainly have already led U.S. designers to build in such capabilities. It’s not quite what Dzieza says human rights activists fear, but things are moving in that direction. Meanwhile, the drone/robot debate grows stronger and more important in this and other realms, and will continue to for the foreseeable future.

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