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61% opposed to development of Killer Robots

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  • In the 26 countries surveyed in 2018, more than three in every five people (61%) responding to a new poll oppose the development of weapons systems that would select and attack targets without human intervention.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of those opposed to lethal autonomous weapons systems were most concerned that they would “cross a moral line because machines should not be allowed to kill.”
  • More than half (54%) of those opposed said that they were concerned that the weapons would be “unaccountable.”
  • A near-identical survey in 23 countries by the same company in January 2017 found that 56% of respondents were opposed to lethal autonomous weapons systems, opposition has grown to 61% as of December 2018.
  • A majority opposed killer robots in Canada (60%); China (60%); Russia (59%); the UK (54%); and the US (52%).

The results of this poll show that public sentiment is against the development of killer robots. A minority of states at the 2018 November meeting of the annual Convention on Conventional Weapons at the UN in Geneva, used consensus rules to thwart meaningful diplomatic progress. Russia, Israel, South Korea, and the United States indicated at the meeting that they would not support negotiations for a new treaty. Currently, 28 states are seeking to ban fully autonomous weapons. Austria, Brazil, and Chile have formally proposed the urgent negotiation of “a legally-binding instrument to ensure meaningful human control over the critical functions” of weapons systems.

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Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, Coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, said:

“The window to prevent the development of fully autonomous weapons is closing fast. This poll shows that public opposition is rising and with it the expectation that governments will act decisively and with urgency to deal with this concern.”

“The results of this poll show that public views in nations often identified as most in favour of killer robots, such as the US and Russia oppose the development of these weapons.

“Efforts to address concerns over killer robots via the Convention on Conventional Weapons have failed to move to negotiate new law due to the objections of a handful of states.”

Six out of ten Canadians respondents to the poll opposed the development of weapons systems that would select and attack targets without human intervention commonly known as autonomous weapons systems or killer robots. Canadian opposition to autonomous weapons was on par with the global results but support for such weapons was below the global average with only 15 percent of Canadian respondents supporting the use of autonomous weapons while 25 percent were not sure.

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“Canada has a history of leadership on peace and disarmament coupled with a strong AI sector who has been quite outspoken on this issue. A national ban on autonomous weapons systems and leadership internationally are in line with both a feminist foreign policy and the emphasis the government has put on AI as a future driver of the Canadian economy,” said Erin Hunt, Program Manager at Mines Action Canada, a co-founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

“The Government of Canada should take note and listen to the voice of their people. Our shared security and humanity hinges on retaining meaningful human control over the use of force. Now is the time for political leadership to begin negotiations of a new treaty to prohibit fully autonomous weapons systems.”

The survey by the market research company Ipsos was commissioned by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and conducted in December 2018. Sample size 500 – 1,000 people in each country.

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.