Category Archives: Media

Canadian AI Researchers Call for a Ban

Mines Action Canada welcomes the letter calling for a ban on the weaponization of Artificial Intellegence (AI) from the Canadian AI research community which was sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This letter follows a number of international letters in recent years (from faith leaders, scientists, Nobel laureates, company founders and others) addressed either to the UN or the global community in support of actions to prevent the development of autonomous weapons.

“This letter is evidence that Canadian AI community wants to see leadership from Canada,” said Paul Hannon, Executive Director, Mines Action Canada. “Clearly Canada should become the 20th country to call for a pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons and to lead a process to ensure that autonomous weapons systems never arrive on the battlefield.”

More than 200 AI researchers in Canada signed the open letter to the Prime Minister “calling on you and your government to make Canada the 20th country in the world to take a firm global stand against weaponizing AI. Lethal autonomous weapons systems that remove meaningful human control from determining the legitimacy of targets and deploying lethal force sit on the wrong side of a clear moral line.”

The letter goes further asking “Canada to announce its support for the call to ban lethal autonomous weapons systems at the upcoming United Nations Conference on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). Canada should also commit to working with other states to conclude a new international agreement that achieves this objective.” One of the letter’s authors, Dr. Ian Kerr of the University of Ottawa wrote an op-ed in the Globe and Mail bringing the letter’s message to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Dr. Kerr notes, “it is not often that captains of industry, scientists and technologists call for prohibitions on innovation of any sort, let alone an outright ban. But the Canadian AI research community is clear: We must not permit AI to target and kill without meaningful human control. Playing Russian roulette with the lives of others can never be justified. The decision on whether to ban autonomous weapons goes to the core of our humanity.”

This letter has been released one week before the international community meets under the auspices of the CCW to discuss the issue of autonomous weapons systems. Mines Action Canada’s Programme Coordinator, Erin Hunt will be attending the meeting next week in Geneva. She said “in past discussions at the CCW, some states have expressed concern that a prohibition on autonomous weapons systems would have a negative impact on AI research more broadly. This letter and the similar one released by Australian AI experts show that those concerns are misplaced. The AI research community is calling for the opposite – bold and decisive action to prohibit autonomous weapons systems in order to support the development of AI that would benefit humanity.”

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Majority of Canadians Oppose Killer Robots

New poll indicates that 55% of Canadians oppose autonomous weapons systems

This week, Ipsos released results from the first global public opinion survey that included a question on autonomous weapons. Autonomous weapons, sometimes called killer robots, are future weapons that could select and fire upon a target without human control. Ipsos found that 55% of Canadians surveyed opposed autonomous weapons while another 25% were uncertain about the technology.

In the survey 11,500 citizens across 25[1] countries were asked “The United Nations is reviewing the strategic, legal and moral implications of autonomous weapons systems. These systems are capable of independently selecting targets and attacking those targets without human intervention; they are thus different than current day ”drones” where humans select and attack targets. How do you feel about the use of autonomous weapons in war?” In all but five countries (France, India, the US, China and Poland), a clear majority are opposed to the use of autonomous weapons in war.

Among Canadians, 21% of respondents reported being somewhat opposed to autonomous weapons in war while 34% were strongly opposed to the technology being used in war. Only 5% of Canadians surveyed were strongly supportive of using autonomous weapons in war. This survey is the first to poll Canadians on autonomous weapons systems.

“As part of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, we have frequently heard from Canadians that they want to ensure that there is meaningful human control over weapons at all times. This survey confirms that those opinions represent the majority of Canadians,” said Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada, a co-founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, “In addition to strong citizen opposition to the use of autonomous weapons in war, Canada also has the first robotics company in the world to vow to never build autonomous weapons, Clearpath Robotics. It is time for the Canadian government to catch up to the citizens and come up with a national policy on autonomous weapons.”

Mines Action Canada is calling on the Government of Canada to ensure meaningful public and Parliamentary involvement in drafting Canada’s national position on autonomous weapons systems prior to the United Nations talks on the subject later this year.

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Media Contact:  Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator, Mines Action Canada, + 1 613 241-3777 (office), + 1 613 302-3088 (mobile) or erin@minesactioncanada.org.

[1] Argentina, Belgium, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Turkey, Hungary, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, Peru and the United States of America.

 

Interview with Bloomberg TV

This summer, our Executive Director, Paul Hannon, spoke with Bloomberg TV about autonomous weapons systems. You can see the whole interview here.

 

Video Contest Winner Announced

Next week, states will decide if and how they will continue international talks on autonomous weapons systems at the UN`s Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva. We and the whole Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are calling on states to take the next step towards a ban by agreeing to a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) in 2016. A GGE will allow states to explore the issues surrounding autonomous weapons systems in depth.

With such an important decision looming over states, we are launching the winners of our youth video contest. Last week, we shared the runner-up video.

Today, we are pleased to announce that Steven Hause of Florida State University won the video contest.  Steven’s video covers a number of the key concerns the Campaign has about autonomous weapons systems.  We hope that this video will remind governments of the need to take action at CCW next week.

Video Contest – Runner Up Announced

In less than two weeks, states will decide if and how they will continue international talks on autonomous weapons systems at the UN`s Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva. We and the whole Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are calling on states to take the next step towards a ban by agreeing to a Group of Governmental Experts.

With such an important decision looming over states, we are launching the winners of our youth video contest. This week, we are pleased to present the runner-up video (and top high school video) by Daryl, Henry, Joseph and Anders at Petersburg High School.

Please feel free to share widely!

We thank all those who submitted videos to the contest and congratulate Daryl, Henry, Joseph and Anders on their excellent video.  Come back next week to see the winning entry.

 

Video Contest Launched

**CONTEST IS NOW INTERNATIONAL – STUDENTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD WELCOME TO ENTER**

Mines Action Canada is launching a Keep Killer Robots Fiction video contest for students.  We are inviting students from  across Canada around the world to make and submit 2 minute video on the theme of “Keep Killer Robots Fiction“.

What is the purpose?  The purpose of this competition is to find new, compelling and provocative ways to start a conversation in the public about autonomous weapons systems.  Autonomous weapons systems or killer robots are future weapons that can select and fire upon targets without human control.

Killer robots have been a staple trope in fiction and entertainment for years.  Over the past decade, the possibility of fully autonomous weapons is becoming closer to reality. Recently we have seen a dramatic rise in unmanned weapons that has changed the face of warfare. New technology is permitting serious efforts to develop fully autonomous weapons. These robotic weapons would be able to choose and fire on targets on their own, without any human intervention. This capability would pose a fundamental challenge to the protection of civilians and to compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law.  For clarity it is necessary to note that fully autonomous weapons are not drones; drones have a human pilot in a remote location.  Fully autonomous weapons are a large step beyond armed drones.  You can learn more about autonomous weapons systems online at: www.stopkillerrobots.ca.

Your submission should illustrate one of the major problems with autonomous weapons systems or ask a question about handing over life and death decisions to a machine:

  • A lack of accountability – who is responsible if an autonomous weapon kills the wrong person or malfunctions?
  • Inability to distinguish between legitimate and legal targets and others – human soldiers must be able to tell the difference between soldiers and civilians, could a robot ever make that distinction?
  • The moral issues surrounding outsourcing life and death decisions to machines – is it right to allow machines to choose to end a human life?

Please don’t limit yourself to these example questions about autonomous weapons, they are intended to inspire you to create some questions of your own to guide your project.

What do I win?  The winner or winning team will receive a Go-Pro HERO 4 Silver camera and a 3-way mount.

Who can participate?  Submissions will be accepted from any contestant between the ages of 18 and 30 who is currently enrolled in post-secondary education.

How do I enter the competition?  Submitting your entry to the video contest is easy! Simply complete these three steps by March 15, 2015:

  1. Visit the contest entry form on our website, and fill in all of the required information.
  2. Upload your video to Vimeo and specify the location (URL) on the entry form. Memberships to Vimeo are free.
  3. Submit your online entry form to the Mines Action Canada team.

The Contest Rules and other information can be found in the Video Contest Announcement.  Please read the announcement carefully to ensure that your project is eligible for consideration by our panel of expert judges.  The contest entry form is available online at: http://goo.gl/forms/0VOGD6mgTp.

A New Mandate and a New Video

Today at the UN in Geneva, states approved a new mandate for further discussions about autonomous weapons systems in 2015.  To celebrate, we are pleased to share our new video on why we need to Keep Killer Robots Fiction.

Remember, students you can make your own killer robots video in our film contest.

New Video on Human Control

This week states are meeting at the United Nations in Geneva to decide if discussion on lethal autonomous weapons systems will continue at the Convention on Conventional Weapons.  States should continue to discuss this issue and to debate key problems with autonomous weapons systems.  One of the key problems is the issue of human control.  Learn more with this new video.

 

New Video on Proportionality

Proportionality is a key term for international humanitarian law that means any collateral damage must be proportional to the military gain from any action.  We are very concerned that fully autonomous weapons systems or killer robots won’t be able to weigh proportionality.

 

Great Campaign Events in Canada!

Mines Action Canada and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots hosted a number of events in Ottawa over the past two days to begin the discussion in Canada about autonomous weapons.  We were pleased to have Mary Wareham, Global Coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and Advocacy Director, Arms Division at Human Rights Watch along with Peter Asaro, Professor at the New School and Vice-Chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) join us and local expert Ian Kerr, in Ottawa for the events.  Be sure to check out the great summary of the events on the Campaign’s website.

The two days started with an op-ed by Ian Kerr who holds the Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology at the University of Ottawa and is a member of ICRAC.

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Opening the public event

On April 28th, we met with other peace, disarmament and development organizations to talk about the campaign and to begin to build a stronger civil society presence in Canada on this issue.  There was a lot of a interest from our non-profit colleagues so we look forward to hearing more voices on this issue in the near future.

Later that day, we hosted a public event at Ottawa City Hall.  There was a panel discussion with Peter, Paul, Mary and Ian followed by a rather lively Question and Answer session with the audience.  The audience was generally quite supportive of the Campaign and our efforts to achieve a pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons.  Audience members with backgrounds in engineering, law, the military and politics all expressed concern about the development of killer robots.

The following morning, MAC hosted a breakfast briefing for parliamentarians and their staff, other NGOs and decision makers in Ottawa.  The Bagels and ‘Bots breakfast was the first time some of these decision makers had heard of the issue and it seemed to strike a chord with many in the room.  After breakfast, the team was off to Parliament Hill for a press conference.  At the press conference and in MAC’s press release, campaigners called for Canadian leadership on this issue internationally and for Canada to be the first country in the world to declare a moratorium on the development and production of killer robots.

The media in Ottawa and across the country have taken quite an interest in these events.  The Canadian Press story was picked up in newspapers across the country as well as national media outlets and there was an associated list of facts about killer robots.  The Sun News Network, and Ottawa Citizen also covered the Campaign while MAC has received a number of radio interview requests.  Paul Hannon, Executive Director, was on CKNW Morning News with Philip Till.

One very exciting result of these activities is that The Globe and Mail’s editorial team has come out in support of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and our call:

The world has a long banned some weapons deemed dangerous, indiscriminate or inhumane, including chemical weapons and land mines. Autonomous robot weapons carry all such risks, and add new ones to the list. They are not wielded remotely by humans, but are intended to operate without supervision. They’re about turning life and death decisions over to software. Canada should be a leading voice advocating for a global protocol limiting their development and use.

Also Jian Ghomenshi on CBC Radio’s Q called for Canadian leadership on killer robots, he says that leadership on this issue is something Canadians could be proud of and that it could be a legacy issue for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Keep Killer Robots Fiction initiative is off to a great start.  You can get involved by signing and sharing the petition at: http://bit.ly/KRpetition.

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The panelists at the Bagels and ‘Bots Breakfast