ICRAC Statement at the April 2018 CCW GGE

Posted on 09 April 2018 by Peter Asaro

International Committee for Robot Arms Control
Statement to the UN GGE Meeting 2018
Delivered by Dr Thompson Chengeta, on 9 April 2018

Mr. Chairperson,

I speak on behalf of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control [ICRAC], a founding member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Ambassador Gill, we thank you for your important work. Mr Chairperson, we are going to focus here on four points:

FIRST, a ban on LAWS will have no negative impact on the development of socially beneficial uses of autonomy, robotics or artificial intelligence. In fact, such a ban will direct more resources and specialists to work on humanitarian and beneficial applications.

SECOND, human control of weapon systems is a critical key component of the present discussions. It does not matter what name or term is used to describe human control, what is imperative is that we make sure that human control is consistent with applicable legal, ethical and moral standards.

THIRD, human input in the making of judgements to use violent force is at the centre of legal, ethics and moral standards pertaining to human responsibility for use of such force. No matter how attractive, if a proposed definition of human control does not resolve the accountability gap challenge, then such a proposal is legally inadequate. To that end, States should ask the question: What is the Legally Required Level of Human Control at each “touch point” in the human-machine interaction chain? At every step in the development, deployment, targeting and use of a weapon system, there is an obligation to ensure that the system is both capable of being used in compliance with applicable legal norms.

FOURTH, Poland and ICRC Working Papers’ emphasis on ethics and reassertion of the Principle of Non-Delegation of the Authority to Kill to non-human mechanisms is worth noting. Dictates of public conscience must always take precedence over any short-term advantage that might be gained from autonomous technologies. Furthermore, respect for human rights and human dignity, even within armed conflict, is a moral imperative recognized by the UN and the CCW. ICRAC reiterates the spirit of the Martens Clause—that morality can provide a strong basis for new law.

Finally, human control over critical functions of weapon systems and a ban on fully autonomous weapon systems are two sides of the same coin. States are urged to focus on the requirement of human control rather than technical definitions of autonomy. Further, States must move towards negotiation of a legally binding instrument on this issue.

Mr Chairperson, I thank you.

Peter Asaro
Dr. Peter Asaro is a philosopher of science, technology and media. His work examines the interfaces between social relations, human minds and bodies, artificial intelligence and robotics, and digital media. His current research focuses on the social, cultural, political, legal and ethical dimensions of military robotics and UAV drones, from a perspective that combines media theory with science and technology studies. He has written widely-cited papers on lethal robotics from the perspective of just war theory and human rights. Dr. Asaro's research also examines agency and autonomy, liability and punishment, and privacy and surveillance as it applies to consumer robots, industrial automation, smart buildings, and autonomous vehicles. His research has been published in international peer reviewed journals and edited volumes, and he is currently writing a book that interrogates the intersections between military robotics, interface design practices, and social and ethical issues. Dr. Asaro has held research positions at the Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers University, the HUMlab of Umeå University in Sweden, and the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. He has also developed technologies in the areas of virtual reality, data visualization and sonification, human-computer interaction, computer-supported cooperative work, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robot vision, and neuromorphic robotics at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA), the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, and Iguana Robotics, Inc., and was involved in the design of the natural language interface for the Wolfram|Alpha computational knowledge engine (winner of the 2010 SXSW Web Interactive Award for Technical Achievement), for Wolfram Research. He is currently working on an Oral History of Robotics project that is funded by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities. Dr. Asaro received his PhD in the History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also earned a Master of Arts from the Department of Philosophy, and a Master of Computer Science from the Department of Computer Science.

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