UN debates future ban on killer robots

Updated 14 May 2014
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UN debates future ban on killer robots

GENEVA: Diplomats urged the adoption of new international laws Tuesday that could govern or outright forbid the use of killer robots if the technology becomes reality someday.
At the first United Nations meeting devoted to the subject, representatives began trying to define the limits and responsibilities of so-called lethal autonomous weapons systems that could go beyond human-directed drones already being used by some armies today.
“All too often international law only responds to atrocities and suffering once it has happened,” Michael Moeller, acting head of the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva, told diplomats at the start of the four-day gathering.
“You have the opportunity to take pre-emptive action and ensure that the ultimate decision to end life remains firmly under human control.”
He noted that the UN treaty they were meeting to discuss — the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons adopted by 117 nations including the world’s major powers — was used before to prohibit the use of blinding laser weapons in the 1990s before they were ever deployed on the battlefield, and this “serves as an example to be followed again.”
His proposal echoes calls by groups such as the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and Humans Rights Watch, which want an international ban on Terminator-style machines before they can ever be activated.
Delegates from many of the nations said existing laws probably won’t cover future weapons that could decide on targets without human intervention.
“It is indispensable to maintain human control over the decision to kill another human being,” German Ambassador Michael Biontino told the meeting. “This principle of human control is the foundation of the entire international humanitarian law.”
US diplomat and legal adviser Stephen Townley cautioned the meeting against pre-judging the uses of emerging technologies. Rather than consider popular culture images of “a humanoid machine independently selecting targets,” he urged decision-makers to focus on actual ways weapons will likely develop.
But even if the technology doesn’t exist yet, diplomats agreed it wasn’t too early to ponder the legal, moral and ethical dimensions.
“The fascination produced by technology shall not prevent us from raising relevant questions about the convenience and consequences of our future choices,” said Brazil’s Ambassador Pedro Motto Pinto Coelho.


Greek Prime Minister heads to Odysseus’ home at end of bailout journey

Updated 21 August 2018
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Greek Prime Minister heads to Odysseus’ home at end of bailout journey

ATHENS: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras headed to the Greek island of Ithaca on Tuesday in a gesture laden with classical symbolism as the country emerges from nine years of crisis and international financial bailouts.
The island was home to Odysseus, who found his way home from the Trojan war after a 10-year voyage lost at sea, recounted in Homer’s epic poem.
Tsipras is due to give a state address from the island, a day after Greece ended its third bailout deal with international creditors who have bankrolled the country in return for tough reforms and austerity monitored by their inspectors since 2010.
“We are not saying that all problems have been solved because we exited the bailout, we will not celebrate,” deputy economy minister Alexis Haritsis told state tv ERT. “But it is a significant day and it is a success to manage to get out of a tough surveillance.”
Former Prime Minister George Papandreou, who applied for the first bailout from Greece’s euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund in April 2010, also drew on the Odyssey analogy at the time.
“We are on a difficult path, a new odyssey for Greece and for the Greek nation,” Papandreou said at the time. “But we know the way to Ithaca, and we have charted the waters in our quest.”
Austerity and political turmoil followed, shrinking the economy by a quarter, pushing a third of the population into poverty and forcing the migration of thousands abroad.
Another two bailouts followed in 2012 and 2015. In all, the €288 billion ($330 billion) Greece has borrowed is the largest bailout in history, saddling the country with debt the equivalent of 180 percent of its annual economic output.
In the coming years, Greece will have to maintain primary budget surpluses — excluding debt repayments — and further cuts in pensions may be made in 2019.
One newspaper also referred to the long voyage of Odysseus. “Even after Ithaca we will still be rowing,” the daily Ethnos said on its front page.