|A U.N. report released earlier this week called for a global moratorium on developing highly sophisticated robots that can select and kill targets without a human being directly issuing a command. These machines, known as Lethal Autonomous Robots (LARs), may sound like science fiction – but experts increasingly believe some version of them could be created in the near future. The report, released by Professor Chrisof Heyns, U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, also calls for the creation of "a high level panel on LARs to articulate a policy for the international community on the issue."
The U.S. Department of Defense issued a directive on the subject last year, which the U.N. report says "bans the development and fielding of LARs unless certain procedures are followed" – although DoD officials have called the directive "flexible."
Unlike groups like Human Rights Watch – which has called for an all-out ban on LARs – the U.N. report suggests a pause on their development and deployment, while acknowledging the uncertainty of future technologies. "The danger is we are going to realize one day we have passed the point of no return," Heyns tells Rolling Stone. "It is very difficult to get states to abandon weaponry once developed, especially when it is so sophisticated and offers so many military advantages. I am not necessarily saying LARs should never be used, but I think we need to understand it much better before we cross that threshold, and we must make sure that humans retain meaningful control over life and death decisions." […]
The report also warns that "on the domestic front, LARs could be used by States to suppress domestic enemies and to terrorize the population at large." Beyond that, the report warns LARs could exacerbate the problems associated with the position that the entire world is a battlefield, one that – though the report doesn't say so explicitly – the United States has held since 9/11. "If current U.S. drone strike practices and policies are any example, unless reforms are introduced into domestic and international legal systems, the development and use of autonomous weapons is likely to lack the necessary transparency and accountability," says Sarah Knuckey, a human rights lawyer at New York University's law school who hosted an expert consultation for the U.N. report.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2012—Improving the situation for low-wage workers requires, first of all, a commitment to full employment:
|It shouldn't be news to anyone that when lots of people are unemployed, it's tough getting a raise or getting a job that pays as well as a previous one before the lay-offs happened. After all, there was a guy a century and a half ago who talked rather extensively about the negative impact of the "reserve army of the unemployed." Negative, that is, for workers. For employers, a large reservoir of out-of-work people instills fear in those who still have a job: Don't ask for more money, do whatever the boss says even if it's wrong or unfair, don't talk about starting a union and do put up with all kinds of impositions nobody should put up with because there is always a hungry guy ready to take your place if you get too uppity.
Despite the official end of the recession, the situation for workers remains tough. At last count, there was an average of 3.7 job-seekers for every job opening and some 25 million Americans were unemployed or underemployed. That's the acute problem. But one of the chronic problems underlying it is the tremendous number of workers who earn low wages who have seen their benefits ever more reduced over the past couple decades and who have no collective bargaining power with which to change these two facts of life. Those low wages aren't just low; their buying power is less than it was four-and-a-half decades ago.
At the Economic Policy Institute, Rebecca Thiess has analyzed the future of work and come to a number of both obvious and not so obvious conclusions. In a nutshell, she says, government policy directed toward creating access to good jobs for low-wage workers will accomplish more if it isn't focused so much on raising educational levels or upgraded job skills and more on doing something about the buying power of the minimum wage, loss of health and retirement benefits, and the loss of workers' bargaining power.
On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin says the American Academy of Pediatrics endorses the position statement of the United Physicians of Newtown! How are gun votes playing in Senate races? Public perceptions of a prospective US role in Syria. Also: Top #GunFAIL; fear of terrorism vs. gun violence; Rs find a new way to combat science; Sunstein smashes "slippery slope"; Justice O'Connor says maybe SCOTUS shouldn't have taken Bush v. Gore after all; AZ bans destruction of guns from buybacks; Did VA Gov. Bob McDonnell let a "friend" (& donor) pay the bill at his own daughter's wedding. Family values!