'These Will Be Weapons of Mass Destruction': Warnings About Killer Robots After UN Talks
As the United Nations’ first formal meeting about killer robots came to a close on Friday, tech experts and critics continued to warn about autonomous weapons and called for more urgent action to curb the threat they pose.
“These will be weapons of mass destruction. I am actually quite confident that we will ban these weapons,” he added. “My only concern is whether [nations] have the courage of conviction to do it now, or whether we will have to wait for people to die first.”
—Toby Walsh, University of New South Wales
In Geneva this week, a Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) group of governmental experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems gathered to discuss growing demands that the global community establish limitations on the development of robotic weapons.
As artificial intelligence technology has advanced, human rights organizations, advocacy groups, military leaders, lawmakers, and tech experts, and engineers such Tesla CEO Elon Musk have all expressed concerns about these fast-evolving machines.
“Militaries around the world and defense companies are sinking a lot of money” into developing weapons that can autonomously select targets and kill humans, Mary Wareham of the arms division at Human Rights Watch (HRW) told AFP. “Countries do not have time… to waste just talking about this subject.”
“These will be weapons of mass destruction,” warned Toby Walsh, an expert on artificial intelligence at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
“I am actually quite confident that we will ban these weapons,” he added. “My only concern is whether [nations] have the courage of conviction to do it now, or whether we will have to wait for people to die first.”
Boston Dynamics—an American robotic company owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company—triggered a social media frenzy on Thursday when it revealed video of its Atlas humanoid robot doing backflips. Although Atlas is not designed as a weapon, the video served as a reminder of the degree to which robotics technology has advanced, causing some views to share concerns about the threat robots could pose to humans in the future.
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