Rise of the killer machines

Saturday, November 25, 2017
By Paul Martin

As Asia’s militaries deploy more lethal automated weapons systems, fears are growing of a new artificial intelligence driven arms race

NOVEMBER 24, 2017

Asian military forces are rolling out killer robots for a range of battlefield roles as diplomats wrestle with legal semantics over efforts to control artificial intelligence (AI) powered weapons that many fear could trigger the next arms race.

Experts at a session of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva this week, attended by delegates from more than 80 nations, could not even agree on how to define the weapons. They have been struggling to answer the same question since 2013.

Scientists say the issue can’t wait. In the past two years about 23,000 have signed an open letter calling for a moratorium on the development and use of lethal automated weapons systems (LAWS), including physicist Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk of Tesla and Apple’s Steve Wozniak.

“If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow,” the letter says, in a reference to the Russian-made assault rifle that is found in most global hotspots.

Pakistan is the only Asian country to make a clear commitment on the issue: in 2013, it became the first signatory of a petition by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots that has since been backed by 21 other nations.

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