The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion I’ll say it: I do not think killer robots are a good idea

I understand that this remark is controversial. But what are columnists for, if not to take these bold stances? (Jeff Chiu/AP)

I am just going to go ahead and say it: I do not think that killer robots are a good idea.

I know that the San Francisco Police Department wants to have killer robots. But I think, sometimes, you do not need to give people what they want. Especially if what they want is killer robots.

I understand that this remark is controversial. But what are columnists for, if not to take these bold stances? So I will say it again: I, for one, think that killer robots are bad. I do not think the robots should kill. I think if you are going to draw a line someplace, killer robots should be on the other side of the line.

I was against the murder hornets, too. I heard “hornet” and said, “I will hear you out,” but then they said “murder,” and I said, “I will pass!” I am also opposed to killer people. When people say, “I am thinking of killing,” I am always the first to say, “Don’t!” I am consistent in these matters.

I like robots that don’t kill. I am happy to see a robot vacuuming. I am delighted when a robot takes an interest in some element of manufacturing. I am even pleased when a robot wants to be a companion to the elderly. All of these seem like worthwhile things for the robots to do. The killing, though, makes me uneasy.

Paul Waldman: Coming soon to your local police department: Killer robots

That might not be where you draw your line. I understand. You might say, “I think the robots should do a little killing. Let them have their fun.”

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But I am going to say, “I think you’re making a mistake. I think the ideal amount of killing that should be done by robots is zero killing.”

“But wait,” you’re saying. “Historically, haven’t killer robots been good for society?” Actually, no! Actually, there have not been any killer robots, because we were pretty confident they would be bad for society.

Well, let us look to fiction! Perhaps in fiction we will find that killer robots are doing people great favors! But even there, we see that every killer robot is doing something bad. You might expect that if there were a good case to be made for killer robots, somebody in science fiction would be making it, but even there, where robots abound, people are most excited about them when they are not arriving to kill people.

Nobody in anything that I have read or seen in real life or fiction sees a killer robot and says, “Ah, good! The killer robot is here, to kill!” And I think there is a reason for that. I would venture that reason is: Killer robots are bad.

I am old-fashioned like that. No robots killing people, thanks! In fact, I do not even think the police should be killing people. But that is just me.

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