SlaughterBots – A Dystopian Future Awaits

Not long ago, we discussed about the benefits of Artificial Intelligence. Interestingly, this morning I came across a nightmarish yet enlightening video released by ‘The Future of Life Institute’, an organization famous for their campaign to stop killer robots. This short film titled Slaughterbots, is an attempt to increase awareness of the dark side of developing autonomous weapons.

While this video might seem a little too disturbing or hair raising to some, it also throws a burning question –  “Where are we heading with our Great Technological Advancements?

While some might brush this off as fiction, it would certainly be worthwhile to look at some highly-advanced military tech in existence. We should warn our readers that this might make all your fears about AI Apocalypse, seem totally real. So let’s get on with it.

Autonomous Weapons

Autonomous weapons are type of military robots which are designed to select and attack military targets without any direction being given by human operator also called as Lethal Autonomous Weapons, Lethal Autonomous Weapon System, Lethal Autonomous Robots, robotic weapons or to be more precise, Killer Robots.

These weapons can operate in air, on land, on water, underwater or in space. As of now, weapon systems still require a significant level of human intervention to attack, with exception to certain defensive systems that are entirely autonomous.

Artificial Intelligence is the backbone behind autonomous weapons. What’s scary, is their exceptional defensive system which enables them to make their own decisions. As is obvious, this could be really devastating to our security and our freedom.


Slaughterbots is the name given to the robotic drone system pictured in the film which is an advanced version of the drone equipped with capability to kill people without human intervention. It is a palm-sized autonomous drone which is embedded with facial recognition system and on-board explosives to perform untraceable massacres.

The video starts with the launch conference of an autonomous miniature drone with a capability to carry some explosives created with the aim to help the defense system of the country. But what follows in the video is the scariest part of all. What happens when this tech weapon gets into wrong hands, and is used as an assassination tool, targeting politicians, political activists, and students.

The technology used in slaughterbots are viable systems that are up and running today, like facial recognition, automated targeting, artificial intelligence, weaponized aerial drones and circuit miniaturization.

Will Our Technological Prowess Be The Reason For Our Downfall?

It is difficult to answer this question. For most of us science is meant to help humanity but we also have some people who use this technology as a weapon for the destruction of humanity. The atrocities presented in the video are not possible today, but such a day is not far away, if we go by the trajectory of development of technologies.

The video has been designed to give a fictional warning to us by depicting the dystopian future which is full of autonomous killer robots. It is a collaborative effort between Professor Stuart Russell of University of California-Berkeley and the Future of Life Institute.

An Attempt to Safeguard the Future

The video has been deliberately released this week to coincide with the meetings of the United Nations’ Convention on Conventional Weapons, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland to have discussion on Autonomous Weapons. It is an attempt on behalf of the researchers to build a support for Global Ban on Autonomous Weapon Systems.

The Future of Life Institute was founded by a group of scientists and business leaders which is backed by AI-skeptics like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. It is a non-profit organization working to mitigate the existential risks posed by the advanced technologies. At present, 125 nations including all five permanent members of UN Security Council have pledged to honor the convention’s resolutions.

There are several companies which are working on anti-drone technology, and governments are certainly aware of the potential threats that AI presents, especially in the form of drone swarms.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is sponsoring an event at this week’s UN convention to awaken the international community and to propose a worldwide ban on Lethal Autonomous Weapons that could be developed as flying drones, self-driving tanks or automated sentry guns.

As said by Professor Stuart Russell in the conclusion of the video,

“We have an opportunity to prevent the future you just saw, but the window to act is closing fast. Allowing Machines to choose to kill humans will be devastating to our security and freedom.”

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