The media might be forgiven for using such terms and images as click-bait. But some people have accused the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots of invoking “Hollywood paranoia” as well. NBCNews tech writer Keith Wagstaff asked whether “hysteria over the robopocalypse could hold back technology that could save human lives.” At the conference, autonomous weapons proponent Professor Ronald Arkin criticized the global coalition for holding a position based on “pathos” and “hype.” Another expert, Nils Melzer of the Geneva Center for Security Policy began his slideshow with an image from “Terminator 2,” saying he would be taking an “objective” view rather than “demonizing” these weapons – a veiled jab at NGOs. Even earlier, Greg McNeal of Forbes Magazine criticized the campaign for “scare-mongering,” using Hollywood archetypes.
Is this fair? A closer look at the history and tactics of the global coalition tells a different story: a story of global civil society organizations maneuvering in a balanced way in a socio-cultural context in which they must persuade multiple stakeholders – governments, militaries, and the global public – to take a “far-out” issue dead seriously; and in which they face push-back by opponents who use claims of “hyperbole” in attempts to discredit them. In this version of the story, a number of common claims about the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots turn out to be myths.
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