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­.n. Opens Formal Discussions on AI-Powered Autonomous Weapons, Could Ban 'killer Robots'


Meeting at the United Nations.

On Friday, after three years of negotiations, the United Nations unanimously agreed to begin formal discussions on a possible ban of lethal, autonomous weapons.

Credit: Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

Many current fears around AI and automation center around the idea that superintelligence could somehow "take over," turning streets around the globe into scenes from The Terminator. While there is much to be gained from discussing the safe development of AI, there's another more imminent danger: Autonomous weapons.

On Friday, after three years of negotiations, the United Nations unanimously agreed to take action. At the Fifth Review Conference of the U.N. Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, countries around the world agreed to begin formal discussions—which will take place for two weeks at the 2017 U.N. convention in Geneva—on a possible ban of lethal, autonomous weapons. Talks will begin in April or August, and 88 countries have agreed to attend. This week, the number of countries that support a full ban on killer robots went from 14 to 19.

"By moving to a group of governmental experts to formalize the official process, it takes it from being led by these kind of outside academics, and means that they have to find government experts to handle it," said Mary Wareham, coordinator for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. "It raises the expectation that they're going to do something about this," she said, although what will be done is not yet clear.

"It is great to see universal recognition of dangers coming from weaponized artificial intelligence," said Roman Yampolskiy, director of the Cybersecurity lab at the University of Louisville. "It is my hope that, in the future, general danger coming from malevolent AI or poorly designed superintelligent systems will likewise be universally understood."

 

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