Published: Mon, August 21, 2017
Business | By Max Garcia

Tech leaders warn against 'Pandora's box' of robotic weapons

Tech leaders warn against 'Pandora's box' of robotic weapons

"These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations", Xinhua cited the letter as saying. 19 countries have already called for an outright ban. This led to the United Nations agreeing to further discussions on the ethics of using weapons like drones, tanks and automated machine guns.

Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare.

In December a year ago, 123 member nations of the UN's Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons unanimously agreed to begin formal discussions on the use of autonomous weapons, and 19 have already called for an outright ban.

A United Nations group focusing on autonomous weaponry was scheduled to meet on Monday but the meeting has been postponed until November, according to the group's website. As a 2016 report from Arizona State University backed by the Future of Life Institute pointed out, artificial intelligence has gradually been used in current applications like drone weapon systems that can independently analyze their surroundings and attack when they see a specified target. The group was slated to meet on August 21, but has been delayed until November, according to Fortune.

The open letter, which was signed by representatives from companies worth collectively billions of dollars across 26 countries, could put even more pressure to make a prohibition happen. The letter launches an International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Melbourne on Monday.

Experts are calling for what they describe as "morally wrong" technology to be added to the list of weapons banned under the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). While it can be used to help us tackle social problems such as inequality, climate change and economic crisis, it could also be turned to the industrialisation of war.

Hence the letter's exhortation for members "to double their efforts at the first meeting of the GGE now planned for November" in the hope of "finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies".

One of the autonomous lethal weapons already out in the world.

Ryan Gariepy, the founder of Clearpath Robotics told the Guardian that autonomous weapons systems "have a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability".

These delays inspired this second open letter, which concentrated on recruiting support from those on the business and industry side of robotics and AI. Though the letter itself is more circumspect, an accompanying press release says the group wants "a ban on their use internationally".

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