Robotics companies: ‘UN, put a ban on killer robots’

Image: Elon Musk bestudeert een assemblage robot. Foto Steve Jurvetson / wikimedia / CC BY 2.0

August 25, 2017

More than a hundred companies specialised in robotics and artificial intelligence are calling on the UN, in an open letter, to put a ban on killer robots, to ultimately protect the world against fully autonomous weapons. The signatories from 26 different countries warn that this ‘third revolution’ in warfare could lead to a life-threatening arms race.

PAX, which is also pleading for a worldwide ban on killer robots within the international Stop Killer Robots campaign, is thrilled with the letter. ‘This is an important signal. It is not often that companies call for regulation within their own area of expertise. The warning from these companies should, therefore, be taken extremely seriously,’ says Miriam Struyk, Programme Director at PAX for Peace. Tesla founder, Elon Musk, from Tesla and Mustafa Suleyman, from Google’s DeepMind, are amongst the signatories.

Arms race
The companies warn of an arms race, amongst other things, and the destabilising effects of these weapons. They refer to these weapons as the third revolution in warfare and warn that we don’t have much time left to act. ‘Once Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.’

Ethical concerns
The letter appears the week that the first meeting of a so-called Group of Governmental Experts is scheduled to take place. During this meeting, many of the UN member states will have to consider the question of how the UN should deal with autonomous weapons and whether regulation and/or a ban would be possible and/or feasible. The meeting was postponed until November because some UN membership contributions are in arrears. Miriam Struyk from PAX: ‘The diplomatic process is slow whilst the technology is progressing at the speed of lightning. Cost what it may, we must prevent machines from soon having the right to decide between life or death, to mention just one of the many ethical concerns about killer robots. States must draft rules as soon as possible, stating that people must maintain control over such weapons, at all times, before it is too late.’

Read the open letter from 116 robotics companies.

Read more about killer robots.

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