Robowar: The next generation of warfare revealed

Let’s hope sanity prevails.  War itself is bad enough but the idea of autonomous machines deciding who or what to destroy is horrendous.  Terminator is the obvious analogy but I’m also reminded of a dystopic sci-fi short story I read many years ago (I don’t remember the title or author) about two planets which are at virtual war.  Basically war had become so expensive that the planets agreed to fight each other through a ‘war-game’ instead.  If the result of a battle was, say, defeat of one planet by a 1000 deaths then that planet had to despatch 1000 of its population to the killing chambers.  Gruesome but cost-effective to the planets’ governments.terminator



Automated battlebots maraud
the rubbled streets of war-torn towns,
hunting down the rat-holed enemy.

Taranis (Celtic God of Thunder)
bat-swoops through the smoking skies,
homing in and spitting lasered death.

Steel sentinels, the Guardiums,
patrol the borders, ask no questions
of either patterned friends or foes.

Worship the machine’s endurance,
the rhythm of its killing power
through artifice of algorithm.

The Anjian, the Crusher, X47-B,
illusory harbingers of a future age
of liberty from fruitless war.

From battle-field to eavesdropped streets
machines now vanquish crime, sniff out dissent,
the scent of opposition to the state.

Machines have quelled the war of wars
and now proscribe the boundaries of our lives
shackled in the iron chains of programmed peace.


15th November 2013 – headline from the Independent

Notes:  “Robowar: The next generation of warfare revealed – a general’s dream, but are they also humanity’s nightmare?”  The armed forces of the West are close to perfecting a new generation of killing machines: autonomous robots that know neither pity nor fear.  Robotic military systems with varying degrees of lethality are under development – and in some cases already deployed – by the US, South Korea, China, Israel and the UK, as defence budgets around the world respond to the forces of austerity which demand greater capability for less money.  These are the forerunners of what many in the defence world believe is the next quantum leap in warfare – a generation of fully autonomous weapons which would be capable of crossing one of the great Rubicons of modern conflict by “deciding” for themselves when to take human life.  In the words of one US general, they are the harbingers of an age where “death by algorithm is the ultimate indignity”.  But as a result of a decision taken in a Geneva conference room today, these “killer robots” could now be equally on the road to extinction after a vote by the United Nations Convention on Conventional Weapons (CWC) which would pave the way to a global ban on autonomous weapons.


2 thoughts on “Robowar: The next generation of warfare revealed

    • Yes I remember that Star Trek episode – perhaps that’s what I was thinking of although I’m sure it was something I read. Re the security council I’m personally not convinced they can stop such developments – the power of defence industries is too great. I think we might see some limits imposed on development and then the boundaries gradually being pushed back

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