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 night of 18 June 2022 is still fresh in the memories of families living in Chiquimula, Guatemala. Following warnings that Hurricane Celia was on its way, many people in at-risk communities were expecting heavy rains. But early that morning, the rising San José River washed away everything in its path, destroying infrastructure and damaging people’s homes.
“We realised that the river was completely washing away the bridges. People could be losing their lives,” recalls one community member.
In the face of that anguish, and the damage being caused, a group of Guatemalan Red Cross volunteers immediately headed to the affected areas.