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Campaign Urging to Stop Killer Robots

Call Growing for Treaty to Ban Killer Robots

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The mock killer robot was displayed in London in April 2013 during the launching of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which calls for the ban of lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention. (VOA)
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The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is urging the United Nations to begin talks on a legally binding treaty to ban the use and development of lethal autonomous weapons systems. Representatives from more than 70 countries are attending a weeklong meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, or CCW, to recommend future work on this issue.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a global coalition of 76 organizations in 32 countries. Members include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Mines Action Canada and the Nobel Women’s Initiative. It began in April 2013 to pre-emptively ban lethal autonomous weapons systems, better known as killer robots.

Activists say momentum is building for states to negotiate a ban on the devices when the CCW holds its annual meeting in late November; however, the recommendation for further action is required during the current CCW meeting.

Since the last meeting in April, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots reports 26 countries have joined the call for a ban. It says China is agreeable to a partial ban on the use of these weapons, though not on their development, and Russia has announced its support for a non-binding agreement.

Robots
Robots. Pixabay

Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, the coordinator of the campaign, says this is putting pressure on the United States and other countries to support a ban on fully autonomous weapons.

“All of the ingredients are there for states to take action now,” Wareham said. “It is just a matter of who is willing to be the bad guy and try and block this, and that is what we will know at the end of the week. … The CCW operates by consensus, and it is always an awkward thing to witness. We will find out on Friday if any country wants to block the consensus for the proposed mandate.”

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The proposed mandate is to negotiate a legally binding agreement by the end of 2019. During the last meeting, France, Israel, Russia, Britain and the United States emerged as potential spoilers — they all explicitly rejected moves to prohibit these weapons systems.

Activists say legally binding arrangements must be enacted to ensure human control over lethal fully autonomous weapons. To do otherwise, they say, would violate international ethical standards. They say it is not possible to hold killer robots accountable for acts that would amount to war crimes if triggered by a human. (VOA)

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‘Killer robots with AI should be banned’

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Addressing concerns regarding start of a “military arms race”, more than 1,000 robotics experts and artificial intelligence (AI) researchers, spanning physicist Stephen Hawking, technologist Elon Musk, and philosopher Noam Chomsky have signed an open letter calling for the ban of offensive autonomous weapons, better known as “killer robots”.

Apart from hundreds of AI and robotics researchers from top-flight universities and laboratories, the signatories of the letter include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

“AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades”, says the letter put together by the Future of Life Institute, a group that works to mitigate “existential risks facing humanity”.

Autonomous weapons “have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms”, the letter further adds.

The weapons include armed drones that can search for and kill certain people based on their programming.

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Warning against the pitfalls of AI, the letter says that despite the institute seeing the “great potential [of AI] to benefit humanity in many ways”, the development of robotic weapons would prove useful to terrorists, brutal dictators, and those wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing.

As such the weapons do not yet truly exist, but the technology that would allow them to be used is under works.

By eliminating the risk of human deaths, robotic weapons would lower the threshold for going to war thereby making wars potentially more common, the signatories to the letter believe.

By building robotic weapons, the letter warns that a public backlash could grow and curtail the genuine benefits of AI.

Working to pre-emptively ban robotic weapons, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a group formed in 2012 by a list of NGOs including Human Rights Watch, is trying to get the Convention of Conventional Weapons to set up a group of governmental experts which would look into the issue.

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The Convention of Conventional Weapons in Geneva is a UN-linked group that seeks to prohibit the use of certain conventional weapons such as landmines and laser weapons which were pre-emptively banned in 1995.

Meanwhile, the UK has opposed a ban on killer robots at a UN conference, saying that it “does  not see the need for a prohibition” of autonomous weapons.

South Korea has unveiled similar weapons; armed sentry robots whose cameras and heat sensors allow detection and tracking of humans automatically, although the machines require a human operator to fire the weapons.