Killer robots spark global warning
Many of the world’s most powerful technologists get behind Australian call to ban autonomous weapons.
In August the chief executives of more than 100 technology and robotics companies, including Elon Musk from Tesla and Demis Hassabis, founder of Google’s Deep Mind, signed an open letter to the United Nations calling for a ban on the development of autonomous weapons, otherwise known as killer robots.
The letter was the initiative of Toby Walsh, professor of artificial intelligence at the University of New South Wales. Here is the full text. See our review of Toby Walsh’s latest book about artificial intelligence on page 92. As companies building the technologies in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, we feel especially responsible in raising this alarm. We warmly welcome the decision of the UN’S Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems. Many of our researchers and engineers are eager to offer technical advice to your deliberations.
We commend the appointment of Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill of India as chair of the GGE. We entreat the High Contracting Parties participating in the GGE to work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilising effects of these technologies. We regret that the GGE’S first meeting, which was due to start today (August 21, 2017), has been cancelled due to a small number of states failing to pay their financial contributions to the UN. We urge the High Contracting Parties therefore to double their efforts at the first meeting of the GGE now planned for November.
Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close. We therefore implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON CERTAIN CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS