Monthly Archives: October 2013

Canadian experts join global call for a ban on killer robots

Canadians are among the 270 engineers, computing and artificial intelligence experts, roboticists, and professionals from related disciplines who have signed an experts’ call to ban killer robots.  The experts say “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.”

The International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) has thus far received 272 signatures from 37 countries on the statement which continues to collect signatures.  In an announcement released today, Professor Noel Sharkey, Chair of ICRAC said “Governments need to listen to the experts’ warnings and work with us to tackle this challenge together before it is too late.  It is urgent that international talks get started now to prevent the further development of autonomous robot weapons before it is too late.”

Canada does not currently have a policy on fully autonomous weapons and we hope that the government will engage these experts and others as they create the policy.  We expect to see additional signatures from Canadian experts as this issue gains momentum.  At present, the University of Toronto has the largest numbers of signatories but experts from other organizations and institutions still have time to sign the call.  As the quote below from Geoffrey Hinton indicates now is the time to ensure that artificial intelligence and robotic technologies are used for the betterment of humanity.

“Artificial Intelligence can improve people’s lives in so many ways, but researchers need to push for positive applications of technology by supporting a ban on autonomous weapons systems.”

Geoffrey Hinton FRS, [founding father of modern machine learning] Raymond Reiter Distinguished Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Toronto

Campaign to Stop Killer Robots Summer Recap

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots has been trundling along all summer  sharing our message, reaching out to governments and gaining new supporters,.

There have been some exciting and important developments over the summer.  The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) launched the newest edition of the International Review of the Red Cross and the theme is New Technologies and Warfare.  A number of campaigners contributed to the journal so it is definitely worth a read.  The ICRC also published a Frequently Asked Questions document on autonomous weapons that helps explain the issue and the ICRC’s position on fully autonomous weapons.

France along with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs in Geneva convened a seminar on fully autonomous weapons for governments and civil society in early September.  The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots had campaigners taking part and you can read the full report on the global campaign’s website.

The campaigns in Germany and Norway are starting off strong as well.  In the lead up to the German election, all the major parties shared their policy positions in regards to fully autonomous weapons with our colleagues at Facing Finance.  Norwegian campaigners launched their campaign with a breakfast seminar and now they are waiting to hear what the new Norwegian government’s policy on fully autonomous weapons will be.

Like our colleagues in Norway, we’re still waiting to hear what Canada’s policy on fully autonomous weapons will be.  We have written to the Ministers of National Defense and of Foreign Affairs but the campaign team has not yet heard back.  In the meantime, Canadians can weigh in on the topic through our new online petition.  Share and sign the petition today!  This petition is the first part of a new initiative that will be coming your way in a few weeks.  Keep your eye out for the news and until then keep sharing the petition so that the government knows that Canadians have concerns about fully autonomous weapons and believe that Canada should have a strong policy against them.

EDIT:  We had a very human moment here and forgot to include congratulations to James Foy of Vancouver for winning the 2013 Canadian Bar Association’s National Military Law Section Law School Sword and Scale Essay Prize for his essay called Autonomous Weapons Systems: Taking the Human out of International Humanitarian Law.  It is great to see law students looking at this new topic and also wonderful that the Canadian Bar Association recognized the importance of this issue.  Congratulations James!