New rapid changes and technologies are bringing us closer to building real lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs). Weapons that won’t be controlled by humans. It’s not science fiction anymore, it’s about to be fact.
Experts have warned that AI technology has reached a point where creating and deploying autonomous weapons can happen in years. In years, not decades or a century.
For years now, the UN and various institutions have had this conversation; Will AI and lethal autonomous weapons build a better future?
The idea being that AI would save military personnel from conflict and death. But many experts fear that these robots could lower the sense of war and death, resulting in greater loss of human life in conflict zones.
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In a recent move by an unofficial and global coalition of researchers and executives, a letter was published earlier today by Stockholm’s Future of Life Institute. The letter called for a global ban on lethal killer robots, and signatories pledged never to manufacture them.
“…we the undersigned agree that the decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine. There is a moral component to this position, that we should not allow machines to make life-taking decisions for which others – or nobody – will be culpable.”
“We, the undersigned, call upon governments and government leaders to create a future with strong international norms, regulations and laws against lethal autonomous weapons. These currently being absent, we opt to hold ourselves to a high standard: we will neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons. We ask that technology companies and organizations, as well as leaders, policymakers, and other individuals, join us in this pledge.”
Participants include Elon Musk, Google DeepMind’s three co-founders – Shane Legg, Mustafa Suleyman, and Demis Hassabis, Skype founder Jaan Tallinn and various respected and prominent AI researchers.
This is not the first time that letters against LAWs have been published, but it is the first to have individual signatories declare not to manufacture LAWs.
Last year, at the United Nations Convention on Conventional Weapons, AI researcher Stuart Russell presented a chilling video of what could happen if LAWs aren’t banned.
Egypt against LAWs
Egypt is part of the 26 UN nations that have endorsed the banning of lethal autonomous weapons. According the website the countries are Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, Guatemala, Holy See, Iraq, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, State of Palestine, Uganda, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.
As far back as 2014, Egypt has taken a stand against the creation of LAWs.
In 2014, Egypt was one of only 5 countries that called for a preemptive ban on fully autonomous weapons. It also spoke during the first debate on the topic in May 2013 at the Human Rights Council.
“Egypt reiterates that technology should not overtake humanity. The potential and existing development of LARs [LAWs] raises many concerns on their compliance with international humanitarian and human rights laws.” – Egypt’s formal statement at the Meeting of Experts on lethal autonomous weapons May 2014.
These letters are most likely unable to change the fact that various countries are already preparing for developing the technology further. Although previous letters and calls for bans have helped push the UN into formal talks on the technologies.
What do you think about the pledge and where Egypt stands? Let us know in the comments.