Winston Peters called upon to lead war against killer robots

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has been called upon to lead the war against killer robots.

Lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) are being developed - or in some cases actually used - around the world, and the woman leading the campaign to ban them wants our Government to step up.

Mary Wareham, advocacy director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch, is leading the global campaign to ban fully autonomous weapons. 

She brought her war on killer robots to Parliament on Thursday, telling MPs: "Here we are talking about killer robots."

"On the killer robots challenge, I think that we're failing," she said. 

But this is no Terminator movie. This is real, and it is now. 

Wareham said: "We're looking to the future, but we're looking to the near future - we're not looking to the future of terminators 100 years from now."

She says the global arms race is on the brink of going robotic. 

"It is incredibly urgent - we're on the borderline now," she told Newshub. 

Autonomous weapons are already being developed or in some cases actually used. In the Korean Demilitarized Zone, a South Korean military robot can detect humans from three kilometres away - and it's armed. 

The concern is about what control humans have over taking another human life. 

Wareham expressed concern over what happens when "you incorporate artificial intelligence into a weapons system to the extent that it can no longer be effectively controlled by a human being - that's the step too far". 

Defence Minister Ron Mark told Newshub he is concerned.

"This is a question of ethics, whether a human being should make the decision or a machine - it's a question challenging all Western nations," he said.

"Personally, I don't like the idea of machines making 'the' decision - and I think that's where New Zealand sits." 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is working on the problem with others at the United Nations, and they don't want to push too hard for a ban yet. They want to get as many countries on board as possible. 

Wareham said the current position that New Zealand has "articulated" is "meek and timid, weak and insufficient".

She wants action, and she knows who she wants it from: Winston Peters. 

Wareham said New Zealand is the only country in the world to have a Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, referring to Peters. 

Asked if the world needs Peters to lead the war on killer robots, Wareham responded: "Certainly. I think he would be an excellent leader."

The idea of killer robots seems a bit a funny - it's the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters. But it's something our Government and the rest of the world is treating deadly seriously.