UK Government Adopts Anti-“Killer Robot” Stance

September 13, 2017 - 2 minutes read

Among internet of things app developers, Elon Musk is nearly as famous for his apocalyptic warnings as he is for his innovations in the electric car and space travel. He is perhaps the most vocal and influential critic of artificial intelligence, warning that the technology poses a grave risk to humanity if it’s not closely regulated. Last month, Musk and 115 other thought leaders in tech and robotics signed a letter urging the United Nations to take a stand against deadly autonomous weapons before it is too late. The letter bluntly states that these so-called “killer robots” “can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”

Well when you put it like that, it’s hard not to pay attention. Warnings like Musk’s have apparently affected the UK government. This week, the UK Ministry of Defense issued a new doctrine that takes a hard line stance against autonomous weapons. According to this doctrine, the UK has no interest in developing killer robots and wants to ensure that all weapons are under human control. As Mark Lancaster, the Minister for the Armed Forces, puts it, “It’s absolutely right that our weapons are operated by real people capable of making incredibly important decisions; and we are guaranteeing that vital oversight.” This seems like a completely sane position to IoT app developers who don’t want to see how AI might disrupt — and enhance — warfare.

But while London IoT app developers might be breathing a sigh of relief, there’s still a lot of work to be done. A forcefully worded rejection of killer robots shows that the UK government is officially sane on this issue, but they will have to wield influence to persuade other countries to adopt the same stance. The U.N. is planning to gather robotics experts later this year to discuss the future of autonomous warfare. Hopefully, some sort of legislation will come out of the summit so that member states agree to not bring in the “third revolution” in warfare. If you thought peace was hard work before…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,