License to kill & unstoppable at that: Jody Williams on Killer Robots and a stalling CCW

Are autonomous Killer Robots going to change the nature of modern warfare? Not if Jody Williams succeeds with her latest campaign. But the fight is tough: as governments are stalling by encouraging slow-working, low-aiming committees, rather than taking serious steps.  

For War and Peace Talk, Williams explains what Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, aka Killer Robots, are and reflects on the concept of “meaningful human control” over these technologies. She also traces the evolution and current status of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and the work of the High Level Group of Experts on the topic, which convened in the same week this interview was recorded:

“Within nine months [of launching the campaign against killer robots], we had freaked out governments to such a degree, that they called for their first week of informal discussions […] They immediately decided to put it in the CCW (Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons), so they could assure control – in their minds – and that it would go nowhere fast. […] If we had not formed this campaign, there would have never been discussions about this in Geneva. Never ever.”

Williams also doesn’t hold back criticising the mandate of the Group of Experts, arguing that “the CCW is notorious for ‘go slow and aim low’, in other words, ‘do as little as possible in as long a time as you can, to avoid doing anything meaningful’.”

Jody Williams is a life-long activist and Nobel Peace Price Laureate. She also founded and chairs the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

The interview was recorded in Soesterberg, The Netherlands, on April 17, 2016.