November 29, 2020

Governments urged by artificial intelligence researchers to ban killer robots

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BY JOHNNY LIEU From Mashable

Artificial intelligence technology has developed in leaps and bounds in the last decade, and now, governments are being urged to ban robots that can kill, before things get out of hand.

Researchers from and have issued an open letter to the respective leaders of each country, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to take a “firm global stand” against weaponising .

The open letter comes ahead of a United Nations conference on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (), which restricts or bans specific types of weapons that are indiscriminate in its force or cause excessive injury.

Signed by more than 300 robotics and AI experts (across this letter and a previous plea from August), the concern is that lethal automated systems which have no human control cross a “clear moral line.” Lethal automated systems refer to drones, unmanned vehicles and other robots that are currently being developed by militaries.

Australia and Canada have been urged to work with other countries on a new international agreement to outlaw lethal automated systems, as was done with nuclear weapons in 1970.

“In this way, our government can reclaim its position of moral leadership on the world stage as demonstrated previously in other areas like the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons,” reads the latest letter.

“The deadly consequence of this is that machines — not people — will determine who lives and dies.”

“As many AI and robotics corporations—including Australian companies—have recently urged, autonomous weapon systems threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. If developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever before, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend.

“The deadly consequence of this is that machines— not people—will determine who lives and dies. Australia’s AI community does not condone such uses of AI. We want to study, create and promote its beneficial uses.”

It follows a similar letter by AI industry experts in August, calling on the UN to take action on weaponised AI at the conference. That letter was signed by Elon Musk, who famously called AI the “the greatest threat we face as a civilization.”

The UN’s conference on the CCW was initially scheduled to take place in August, but was rescheduled due to a lack of funding.

Talks will now begin from Nov. 14, and we hope governments are paying attention.


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