The Scientists’ Call

Posted on 11 November 2012 by Frank Sauer

… To Ban Autonomous Lethal Robots

Computing experts from 37 countries call for ban on killer robots

Decision to apply violent force must not be delegated to machines!

More than 270 engineers, computing and artificial intelligence experts, roboticists, and professionals from related disciplines are calling for a ban on the development and deployment of weapon systems that make the decision to apply violent force autonomously, without any human control.

Read the full October 2013 press release

Read the full list of signatories

As Computer Scientists, Engineers, Artificial Intelligence experts, Roboticists and professionals from related disciplines, we call for a ban on the development and deployment of weapon systems in which the decision to apply violent force is made autonomously.

We are concerned about the potential of robots to undermine human responsibility in decisions to use force, and to obscure accountability for the consequences. There is already a strong international consensus that not all weapons are acceptable, as illustrated by wide adherence to the prohibitions on biological and chemical weapons as well as anti-personnel land mines. We hold that fully autonomous robots that can trigger or direct weapons fire without a human effectively in the decision loop are similarly unacceptable.

Demands within the military for increasingly rapid response times and resilience against communications failures, combined with ongoing investments in automated systems, indicate a trend towards fully autonomous robotic weapons. However, in the absence of clear scientific evidence that robot weapons have, or are likely to have in the foreseeable future, the functionality required for accurate target identification, situational awareness or decisions regarding the proportional use of force, we question whether they could meet the strict legal requirements for the use of force. This is especially true under conditions in which battlefields are not clearly delimited and discrimination between civilians, insurgents and combatants is increasingly difficult.

Moreover, the proliferation of autonomous robot weapons raises the question of how devices controlled by complex algorithms will interact. Such interactions could create unstable and unpredictable behavior, behavior that could initiate or escalate conflicts, or cause unjustifiable harm to civilian populations.

Given the limitations and unknown future risks of autonomous robot weapons technology, we call for a prohibition on their development and deployment. Decisions about the application of violent force must not be delegated to machines.


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