MILITARY leaders in the US and Russia have teamed up to stop a top level move towards a total ban on killer robots.
Both countries have invested hundreds of millions developing automated troops and weapons which experts believe will eventually battle it out on the front line.
Now the old enemies have helped block the United Nations from tackling the controversial subject during a week of meetings in Geneva, Politico reported.
During the summit a group at the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons discussed whether to take negotiations on fully autonomous weapons to a formal level.
However the proposal was blocked by countries including the US, Russia, South Korea, Israel and Australia.
It was seen by many as a move that could eventually lead to a full scale treaty banning robo-soldiers completely.
“It’s a disappointment, of course, that a small minority of large military powers can hold back the will of the majority,” said Mary Wareham, coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.
Her group represents 75 non-governmental organizations in 32 countries fighting for a ban on weapons that use AI technology to choose their targets.
Twenty-six parties have fully endorsed the weapons ban. The unlikely group of allies includes Cuba, the Palestinian territories and the Vatican.
Their combined stance is that the killer robots violate human rights standards.
Military experts say future wars will be incomparable to even recent conflicts, and warn developed nations are poised on the precipice of the next arms race.
This arms race is towards autonomous machines governed by artificial intelligence, and programs that could wipe out infrastructure with a single line of code.
Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robots at the University of Sheffield, said any prospect of large armies meeting on a battlefield was gone.
Wars of the future would look like one of two options: developed countries deploying autonomous weapons against each other, or, where developing countries were involved – insurgent warfare.
Any claim that AI weapons would shorten war or keep soldiers and civilians out of harms way were rubbish, Sharkey said.
“As it stands now when we leave a country we continue to keep drones flying overhead. If we have autonomous weapons we will just leave those there.”