An open letter signed by 116 founders of robotics and artificial intelligence companies from 26 countries urges the United Nations (UN) to urgently address the challenge of lethal autonomous weapons (often called 'killer robots') and ban their use internationally.
A key organizer of the letter, Toby Walsh, Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, released it at the opening of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI 2017) in Melbourne, the world's preeminent gathering of top experts in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Walsh is a member of the IJCAI 2017's conference committee.
The open letter is the first time that AI and robotics companies have taken a joint stance on the issue. Previously, only a single company, Canada's Clearpath Robotics, had formally called for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons.
In December 2016, 123 member nations of the UN's Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons unanimously agreed to begin formal discussions on autonomous weapons. Of these, 19 have already called for an outright ban.
"Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare," the letter states. "Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend.
"These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora's box is opened, it will be hard to close," it states, concluding with an urgent plea for the UN "to find a way to protect us all from these dangers."
From Future of Life Institute
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