Australia has warned the world that artificially intelligent killer robots “may be closer than many of us had imagined” and nations need to work harder to tackle the future threat they may pose.
At a United Nations meeting on “lethal autonomous weapons systems” in Geneva, Switzerland, the Australian delegation on Monday night called on the world to come up with agreed rules about how to handle the rapid pace in technology in military artificial intelligence.
“The development of fully autonomous systems able to conduct military targeting operations which kill and injure combatants or civilians may be closer than many of us had imagined,” the delegation’s statement said.
“It is an appropriate time to consider the risks of such weapons systems and to make sure we understand fully what might constitute misuse as well as legitimate use of emerging technologies.”
The Geneva meeting is the third gathering on artificially intelligent weapons held by the UN’s disarmament branch. Last year, some of the world’s most prominent scientists and technology entrepreneurs including physicist Stephen Hawking, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak signed a letter warning about the dangers of autonomous weapons, which they said would be technologically feasible “within years, not decades”.
The Australian statement to the UN meeting on Monday said the world still had “some way to go” in agreeing whether there should be limits on autonomy given to weapons systems such as aerial drones and, if so, how to create and enforce global rules.
“We should not underestimate the complexity of this task … As an international community, we remain some way from common understandings and universal acceptance of the potential use of [lethal autonomous weapons systems], and a long way from being able to set enforceable standards for their use,” it said.
“We must work harder in our collaborative examination of the issues.”