Killer ro­bots spark global warn­ing

Many of the world’s most pow­er­ful tech­nol­o­gists get be­hind Aus­tralian call to ban au­ton­o­mous weapons.

Cosmos - - Digest -

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

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