Killer robots may be on the horizon, and are perhaps more dangerous than we think

killer robots workplace robot
Stephen Chin/Flickr
We’ve heard plenty about how robots are endangering our jobs, but now, it’s more than our careers that may be at stake. At this year’s World Economic Forum held in Davos, robots and their future implications drew quite the crowd and considerable debate. Of particular concern was the concept of killer robots. The topic, which has long been a theme in science fiction books, may be inching closer to reality than ever before, and last Thursday, leaders across the world asked a very simple, very terrifying question: “What if robots go to war?”

The technology behind robots is one of the fastest growing and most researched in the industry — it seems that every week, we’re marveling at a new feat robots have accomplished. When robots are doing everything from manning a hotel reception desk to building Ikea furniture to washing our dishes (or learning to, at least), it comes as little surprise that experts are now pretty convinced that millions upon millions of jobs will soon be lost to machines. But as robots’ capabilities grow, what’s to stop them from going too far?

Today, there are some 40 countries around the globe developing autonomous weapons (or killer robots), and yet, there are no rules and regulations on how they may be used. A number of big players in science and tech, including both Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, have long warned of the potential dangers associated with robots that grow too powerful. And yet, there’s been little to no consensus reached on how to address the increasingly relevant problem.

The great danger with war-fighting robots, experts say, is their lack of empathy. These machines would effectively be “devoid of responsibility.” said BAE Systems chair Sir Roger Carr, and would have “no emotion or sense of mercy.” He continued, “If you remove ethics and judgement and morality from human endeavor whether it is in peace or war, you will take humanity to another level which is beyond our comprehension.”

Sure, the danger of killer robots isn’t imminent — we won’t be flooded with scenes from I, Robot in the next year or so. But the horizon is drawing nearer and nearer, and it may be high time to start paying attention to what happens in the end of sci-fi movies.

Emerging Tech

Rise of the Machines: Here’s how much robots and A.I. progressed in 2018

2018 has generated no shortage of news, and the worlds of A.I. and robotics are no exception. Here are our picks for the most exciting, game changing examples of both we saw this year.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Emerging Tech

Postmates’ to roll out Minion-like autonomous delivery robots in 2019

Postmates is about to employ a cute little robot to work alongside its human delivery personnel. Called Serve, the wheel-based bot can carry items weighing up to 50 pounds and has a range of 30 miles.
Deals

Clean up with robot vac, upright vacuum, and spot and stain remover deals

Whether you're gift shopping or need to get your house ready for the holidays, deals on household cleaning appliances are always welcome. We found Walmart's best deals on robot vacs, upright vacuum cleaners, and spot and stain cleaners.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe captures first image from within the atmosphere of the sun

NASA has shared the first image from inside the atmosphere of the sun taken by the Parker Solar Probe. The probe made the closest ever approach to a star, gathering data which scientists have been interpreting and released this week.
Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.
Emerging Tech

Researchers create a flying wireless platform using bumblebees

Researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a novel way to create a wireless platform: using bumblebees. As mechanical drones' batteries run out too fast, the team made use of a biology-based solution using living insects.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!