Oct 26, 2018 I Brett Tingley

Terminator Creator Says Tech Industry Needs an Oath Against Killer Robots

For some reason, the robotics and weapons industries seem to have silently agreed that the world just really needs killer robots walking around blowing stuff up willy-nilly. Perhaps it's already too late. After all, there are already plenty of aerial drones flying around with large degrees of autonomy, and military engineers the world over are busy putting guns in robots’ hands just to see what happens. While it’s clear killer robots will change warfare forever, it’s still unknown exactly how. Will they increase the amount of human casualties with their superior ability to kill, or will they take human soldiers off the battlefield for good?

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Is this the future of warfare?

Who knows. The real losers in any war are always the civilians and innocent bystanders, after all. When those 200-foot robots fall over during battle, they’ve got to crush something. In order to try and mitigate the inevitable dangers of the oncoming killer robots many public figures in the tech industry ave called for outright bans on any killer robots.

It’s safe to say, though, that DARPA, Boston Dynamics, and other research agencies are still hard at work to create our new gun-toting robotic overlords. That’s why one of the creators of the most iconic killer robot of our time is now calling for the creation of a new oath required of the tech industry in an attempt to ensure that killer robots never see the light of day. Is this simply wishful thinking?

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Of course it is, foolish humans.

Screenwriter and producer Gale Anne Hurd was recently awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Screamfest horror film festival in Los Angeles. During a Q&A session following the award ceremony, Hurd noted as so many others have that it is the role of artists and other creative types to pose the hard questions and imagine the ‘what-ifs’ about our current society in order to give us pause to think about where we’re headed:

We are cutting edge. We create and think about things that the people who are being paid so much money, the scientists and the physicists, the mathematicians, biotech people aren’t even considering. The more leaps and bounds are made in technology right now, the more fearful we should be that these scenarios may come to pass. Stephen Hawking only came up with the idea that we need to worry about A.I. and robots about two and a half years before he passed away. If he’d only watched The Terminator.

If only. Hurd went on to argue that researchers in robotics and other high-tech fields should be required to take their own version of the Hippocratic Oath, one that just might give a would-be evil genius second thoughts about downloading his brain into a skyscraper-sized, laser-wielding mech:

The one thing that they don’t teach in engineering schools and biotech is ethics and thinking about not only consequences, but unintended consequences. If you go to medical school, there’s the Hippocratic Oath, first do no harm. I think we really need that in all of these new technologies.

Could an anti-killer-robot version of the Hippocratic Oath save us from our inevitable robotic doom? It’s highly doubtful. Oaths can be broken, after all. Was the opening scene of Terminator 2 a glimpse into our future? Will humanity's collective skull be crushed under the cold metal heel of an unstoppable army of Terminator bots?

It’s probably a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’ Don’t be too upset; some catastrophes aren’t worth living through. Just lie down in front of the marching hordes of deathbots, present that nice squishable cranium for stompin', and think of happier times. It’ll all be over soon.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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