In response to growing concerns about autonomous weapons, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots , a coalition of AI researchers and advocacy organizations, has released a fictional video that depicts a disturbing future in which lethal autonomous weapons have become cheap and ubiquitous worldwide.
UC Berkeley AI researcher Stuart Russell presented the video at the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in Geneva, hosted by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots earlier this week. Russell, in an appearance at the end of the video, warns that the technology described in the film already exists* and that the window to act is closing fast.
Support for a ban against autonomous weapons has been mounting. On Nov. 2, more than 200 Canadian scientists and more than 100 Australian scientists in academia and industry penned open letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Malcolm Turnbull urging them to support the ban.
Earlier this summer, more than 130 leaders of AI companies signed a letter in support of this week’s discussions. These letters follow a 2015 open letter released by the Future of Life Institute and signed by more than 20,000 AI/robotics researchers and others, including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking.
“Many of the world’s leading AI researchers worry that if these autonomous weapons are ever developed, they could dramatically lower the threshold for armed conflict, ease and cheapen the taking of human life, empower terrorists, and create global instability,” according to an article published by the Future of Life Institute , which funded the video. “The U.S. and other nations have used drones and semi-automated systems to carry out attacks for several years now, but fully removing a human from the loop is at odds with international humanitarian and human rights law.”
“The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is not trying to stifle innovation in artificial intelligence and robotics and it does not wish to ban autonomous systems in the civilian or military world,” explained Noel Sharkey of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. Rather we see an urgent need to prevent automation of the critical functions for selecting targets and applying violent force without human deliberation and to ensure meaningful human control for every attack.”
For more information about autonomous weapons:
- Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
- Making the Case The Dangers of Killer Robots and the Need for a Preemptive Ban , Human Rights Watch
- Meaningful Human Control or Appropriate Human Judgment? The Necessary Limits on Autonomous Weapons , Global Security
- ETHICALLY ALIGNED DESIGN A Vision for Prioritizing Human Wellbeing with Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems , IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems
- Killing by machine: Key issues for understanding meaningful human control , Article 36
* As suggested in this U.S. Department of Defense video:Perdix Drone Swarm – Fighters Release Hive-mind-controlled Weapon UAVs in Air | U.S. Naval Air Systems Command