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The UN cannot decide about Killer Robots!

Posted on 13th September 2018

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As a reminder to all of us about just how dangerous "killer robots" (AI weapons) are, there was this piece in Metro, reporting on a warning by Professor Jim Al-Khalili, incoming president of the British Science Association.

The good professor says "Until maybe a couple of years ago had I been asked what is the most pressing and important conversation we should be having about our future, I might have said climate change or one of the other big challenges facing humanity, such as terrorism, antimicrobial resistance, the threat of pandemics or world poverty. But today I am certain the most important conversation we should be having is about the future of AI. It will dominate what happens with all of these other issues for better or for worse." In short, AI is extremely dangerous, and the risks and benefits need to be openly discussed, otherwise untrustworthy governments and companies will utilise the technology without public accountability.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I read this report from the BBC, about how MEPs (Members of European Parliament) passed a resolution calling for an international ban on so-called killer robots. What worries me is not that the European Parliament is against killer robots, but the shocking fact that the UN was not able to pass a similar resolution: "Last month, talks at the UN failed to reach consensus on the issue, with some countries saying the benefits of autonomous weapons should be explored."

I wonder which countries were against the ban? My guess is the permanent members of the UN Security Council: the USA, Russia, China, France and Britain. Britain has been working on battlefield AI for at least 30 years; the other countries for a similar period. The end of that road is an unlivable planet and the extinction of the human race.