A science fiction nightmare where artificial intelligence-powered drones select and eliminate targets with no human oversight is unfolding.
A recent United Nations Security Council report found that an autonomous weaponized drone hunted down and attacked targets (people) without being specifically ordered to in Libya last year.
No robot should ever be making life-or-death decisions, but over 130 military weapons systems across the globe can track targets autonomously — crossing moral and ethical boundaries, creating huge accountability gaps, and ceding critical decision-making power to machines.
And hawks in Washington are already pushing President Biden to invest in these weapons to “compete” with China and Russia — a decision that could set off a global autonomous weapons arms race.
President Biden has a chance to show bold international leadership by prohibiting the U.S. military from using autonomous weapons systems and announcing his support for an international treaty to ban their use.
But he won’t do it without immense pressure from activists like you. The good news is that we’re not alone — a 2019 poll showed a slim, but growing, majority of Americans oppose the use of fully autonomous weapons. It’s time for us to get LOUD.
Drones were first used for U.S. military surveillance in the 1990s. Today, they’re commonly seen across the skies for everything from children’s games to the delivery of groceries and medical supplies.
But soon after 9/11, drones became weaponized — and the U.S. military has barely looked back. Starting with President George W. Bush and expanding under Barack Obama, the secretive use of armed drones to conduct extrajudicial killings increased further still under Trump (who, incidentally, made accountability harder by signing an executive order to ban the reporting of drone casualty details).
Nearly twenty years later, drones are a centerpiece of the United States’ forever wars and exact an appalling toll on Brown and Black communities across the globe. Tens of thousands of people have since been killed and injured outside of any recognized battlefield, with no meaningful accountability for the harm done.
And that’s with human beings calling the shots. The devastating civilian tolls that are already a hallmark of our endless wars would only be worse if robots become increasingly in charge of these life-and-death decisions.
We cannot allow for a world where military leaders are further empowered to shift the blame for their mistakes and crimes onto machines. It’s time for the president to ban the U.S. military’s use of these disastrous, unaccountable weapons and support an international ban now.
Thank you for working for peace,
Annika, Kate, Amisha, and the Win Without War team
 Foreign Policy, «Killer Flying Robots Are Here. What Do We Do Now?«