Leeds Met expert co-hosts killer robots discussion
The event will be held on Wednesday 2 April as part of the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB)'s annual convention at Goldsmiths, University of London. The symposium has been organised by Steve Wright, Reader in Applied Global Ethics at Leeds Met, Professor Noel Sharkey, Chairman of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) and Professor Lucy Suchman from Lancaster University.
Steve commented: "It is important that the artificial intelligence community recognises that many of our technological achievements are now being directed towards the development of fully autonomous weapons, also known as lethal autonomous robots and killer robots. These are weapons systems, controlled by computer programs, that once activated will select targets and attack them with violent force.
"We are not discussing autonomous robots in general here, but only the use of unsupervised autonomous targeting and attack. Some states already use a number of automated weapon systems that intercept high-speed inanimate objects such as incoming missiles. These systems complete their detection, evaluation and response process within a matter of seconds and thus render it extremely difficult for human operators to exercise meaningful supervisory control other than to switch them on and off. But there is an ever-increasing push by several states to develop distance weapons that could move outside the reach of human supervisory control.
"The ICRAC campaigners have now met with the UN Secretary General about autonomous weapons and we will begin discussing the pragmatics of this at the UN in Geneva in May."
The symposium aims to provide a forum for discussions on the technical, ethical, legal and policy concerns about the application of armed robots in modern conflicts. The main questions to be addressed include: Should machines be delegated with the decision to kill? Can computer systems comply with international humanitarian law? Will automating the kill decision ultimately lead to the automation of warfare? Should there be a legally binding international prohibition treaty?
There will be a keynote speech from Steve Goose, Director of the Arms Division of Human Rights and panel discussions, including a session chaired by Steve Wright on the ethics of research into autonomous weapons systems.
Steve added: "I will also be focussing on precursor systems - incremental changes which, while not controversial in themselves, mean that the drift towards the deployment of fully autonomous systems becomes more likely as obstacles, both technical and legal, are removed one by one."
For over 30 years, Steve Wright has researched the proliferation of the technologies of political control and human rights violation. Much of this has involved field research and innovative ways of encouraging corporate responsibility.
He has contributed to the new research field of transfers of small arms and light weapons, whilst specialising in new policing systems such as sub-lethal weapons systems, torture technologies and surveillance.
He is a board member of Privacy International; the Mines Advisory Group; privacy International and ICRAC, the new group of specialists campaigning against autonomous weapons systems.
Noel Sharkey is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Sheffield and an expert in the field of robots and drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), well-known for his appearances on television series including Robot Wars and Techno Games and for his weekly radio show on Sheffield Live!, The Sound of Science.
In April 2013, a global coalition, led by organisations including ICRAC, launched the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. The campaign issued a call for a pre-emptive ban on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. It is growing rapidly and now consists of 50 non- governmental organisations from 23 countries.