Commentary: When the U.S. shoots a human should pull the trigger

Erik Kalibayev/

Weapons systems that fire autonomously are the ultimate example of elites insulating themselves from accountability.

The aversion I have to autonomous weapons dates back to a bygone afternoon when I sat playing Golden Eye, a James Bond-themed video game that I was progressing through with all the alacrity of its lead character until I reached the jungle level. Expert as I was at evading enemy soldiers, I found myself gunned down in a spray of machine gun bullets, which turned out to be motion activated. "Oh bollocks," I cursed, determined to stay in character. "That's hardly sporting."

I suppose some of you will think I'm a nutty conspiracy theorist when I inform you that many inside the Defense Department are eager to deploy machines on the battlefield that autonomously kill rather than requiring human intervention to "pull the trigger." It sounds like dystopian fiction. But it has its champions, and most informed observers think its inevitable that they'll win victories in coming years. There aren't even likely to be many objections to autonomous military hardware that doesn't kill. Think of surveillance drones that take off, surveil, and land entirely on autopilot. Is the day coming when drones like that are armed, programmed to seek out certain sorts of mages, and automated to fire in certain circumstances? The short answer is that, given present trends, that future is a realistic possibility. 

Read the full analysis at The Atlantic.

(Image via Erik Kalibayev/