It’s the stuff of science fiction: machines that make decisions about who and when to kill. Referred to as “autonomous weapons”, they’re already in use to some degree. But as more sophisticated systems are being developed we wanted to an expert in the field about whether such systems comply with international humanitarian law and what it means for humanity to give machines the power over human life and death.
“The only sentence they want to hear is, ‘You are safe,’ says Abdelfetah Mohamed, who works as post-rescue facilitator aboard the Ocean Viking, a ship with the sole mission of rescuing small boats of people in distress in the Mediterranean Sea. To the rescued migrants, the words ‘You are safe’ means many things: first, they will not be sent back to Libya, where migrants often languish in prison under deplorable conditions. But it also means they will not be lost at sea, a fate that befalls many each year.
The Central Mediterranean is now the world’s deadliest migratory sea route, according to the International Organization for Migration, and recent years have seen a sharp increase in the number of people attempting the crossing. The Ocean Viking’s mission is to ensure anyone making that perilous journey reach a safe haven on land.