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Monday, December 12, 2016

Killer Robots Won’t Go to War If Global Movement Has Its Way | Singularity Hub

"Much ink has been spilled in recent years about the rise of killer robots." according to Peter Rejcek, became a freelance writer and digital nomad in 2015.
Photo: Shutterstock
A movement to ensure no blood is shed by autonomous weapons—machines that kill or maim without a human behind the joystick or keyboard—is racing to pre-emptively ban the technology before robots go to war.

“We’re talking a wide range of weapons systems with various levels of human control. We’re not just talking about weapons systems but a new way of warfighting,” says Mary Wareham, advocacy director for the Human Rights Watch arms division, who also serves as the global coordinator for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

Human Rights Watch is one of more than 60 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that have coalesced around the campaign, which launched in April 2013 with the single-minded goal to “preemptively ban the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons.”

The coalition includes experts in artificial intelligence, human rights groups, former diplomats and even a group of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates led by Jody Williams (known for her work to ban land mines), from about two dozen countries in what Wareham calls a “truly global campaign” to stop what have been dubbed “lethal autonomous weapons systems” or LAWS.

“We’re trying to get a diverse range of groups around the table because that’s part of building a movement,” she says.

In October, the New York Times ran a lengthy feature on the retooling of America’s military with autonomous weapons systems, which include everything from robotic fighter jets to autonomous submarines capable of stalking targets thousands of miles away without human guidance.

The Times reporters wrote,“The Pentagon has put artificial intelligence at the center of its strategy to maintain the United States’ position as the world’s dominant military power. It is spending billions of dollars to develop what it calls autonomous and semi-autonomous weapons and to build an arsenal stocked with the kind of weaponry that until now has existed only in Hollywood movies and science fiction, raising alarm among scientists and activists concerned by the implications of a robot arms race.”

The concern by groups that are part of Campaign to Stop Killer Robots isn’t over fear of a dystopian 
Terminator or Matrix world, but the removal of human control, judgment and conscience from the theater of war.

“We’re debating the nature of human control over the weapon systems and the individual attacks,” Wareham says.

In 2012, the Pentagon released a policy that on the surface seems to imply that some sort of human agency will helm a future robotic army. In part, it says, “Autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems shall be designed to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force.”

The issue has quickly—in the relative world of government bureaucracy—moved to the forefront of international discourse, according to Wareham. Later this month, at the Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) at the United Nations in Geneva, delegates are expected to consider a recommendation from a previous meeting in April to establish a Group of Governmental Experts to consider concerns and options relating to LAWS.

That could be the first real step toward an international agreement against killer robots.

Source: Singularity Hub