Ban Killer Robots: Protests Rise To Boycott Development Programs

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots group consisting of 65 nongovernmental organizations in 28 countries protested to ban AI-powered killer robots along with more than 50 researchers and scientists working in the field of AI and robotics from the South Korea’s KAIST university.

Ban Killer Robots Protests Rise To Boycott Development Programs
Protest Over AI-Powered Killer Robots Rises, Pressure On Governments To Curb Programs Increases

Artificial intelligence (AI) has penetrated in almost every industry of the world. Defense sector is not an exception. Military organizations and arms manufacturers have been researching and developing systems using AI technology to kill targets and utilize in violence-prone area. They have been developing a technology that would spot the targets independently and kill them. These autonomous weapons or robots would outperform the existing technology by spending very less money. However, many organizations and researchers have been protesting such programs due to its lethality and lack of control of human beings over these systems. They outlined the need to put international restrictions on killer robots and demand strong control over AI-controlled weapons.

More than 50 researchers and scientists in the field of AI and robotics from the South Korea’s KAIST university threatened to boycott over the plans of institute to offer help in development of AI-powered weapons. The threat was announced a week prior to the UN meeting in Geneva that will include discussion on international restrictions on AI-powered killer robots. Professor Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales organized the boycott. The protest would continue till the university gives assurance that its weapons will have a “meaningful human control”. Till then, all the contact and collaboration with university will be stopped. He outlined that the race to develop autonomous weapons controlled by AI has already started.

“We can see prototypes of autonomous weapons under development today by many nations including the US, China, Russia, and the UK,” said Walsh. “We are locked into an arms race that no one wants to happen. KAIST’s actions will only accelerate this arms race. We cannot tolerate this.”

Countries including the U.S. and the U.K. outlined that the legislation to restrict development of AI-powered killer robots would be impractical. They argued that many military systems already have some autonomous capabilities such as missiles and drones. Activists are angry with France and Germany due to their inaction against putting restrictions on AI-powered deadly robot killers. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots group, which consists of 65 nongovernmental organizations in 28 countries, outlined that Germany has been falling behind to support regulations that restrict development and use of lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs). Moreover, France is reluctant to back regulations. These two countries suggested that it would be too early to come up with a legal treaty that bans such weapons. An international law and political declaration would be enough to keep weapons under the control.

Governments of different countries will meet for the fifth time in Geneva to discuss whether and how to regulate LAWs. The campaign group has been demanding for a rapid step toward banning regulation, and they sent a letter to national capitals. In a letter, they cautioned that “the window for credible preventative action” in a U.N. forum is “fast closing.” Officials from France and Germany rejected allegations from the group and outlined that Paris and Berlin are the main capitals which have been striving for a compromise between countries which are divided over this issue.

AI leaders and protesters have argued that weapons that kill without human intervention would bring chaos in the world and need control by international treaty. This has gained a support from international organizations and countries such as Egypt, Argentina, and Pakistan. The development of autonomous weapons will enable war to be fought faster and at larger scale than ever before. Putting restriction on the development of such weapons would help in maintaining peace and order.


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