UN to Host Talks on Use of 'Killer Robots'

from VOA News:

The United Nations is set to host talks on the use of autonomous weapons, but those hoping for a ban on the machines dubbed "killer robots" will be disappointed, the ambassador leading the discussions said Friday.

More than 100 artificial intelligence entrepreneurs led by Tesla's Elon Musk in August urged the U.N. to enforce a global ban on fully automated weapons, echoing calls from activists who have warned the machines will put civilians at enormous risk.

A U.N. disarmament grouping known as the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) will on Monday begin five days of talks on the issue in Geneva.

But anything resembling a ban, or even a treaty, remains far off, said the Indian ambassador on disarmament, Amandeep Gill, who is chairing the meeting.

"It would be very easy to just legislate a ban but I think ... rushing ahead in a very complex subject is not wise," he told reporters. "We are just at the starting line."

He said the discussion, which will also include civil society and technology companies, will be partly focused on understanding the types of weapons in the pipeline.

FILE - The mock killer robot was displayed in London in April 2013 during the launching of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which calls for the ban of lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention.

FILE - The mock killer robot was displayed in London in April 2013 during the launching of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which calls for the ban of lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention.

Proponents of a ban, including the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots pressure group, insist that human beings must ultimately be responsible for the final decision to kill or destroy.

They argue that any weapons system that delegates the decision on an individual strike to an algorithm is by definition illegal, because computers cannot be held accountable under international humanitarian law.

Gill said there was agreement that "human beings have to remain responsible for decisions that involve life and death."

But, he added, there are varying opinions on the mechanics through which "human control" must govern deadly weapons.

Machines 'can't apply the law'

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is mandated to safeguard the laws of conflict, has not called for a ban, but has underscored the need to place limits on autonomous weapons.

"Our bottom line is that machines can't apply the law and you can't transfer responsibility for legal decisions to machines," Neil Davison of the ICRC's arms unit told AFP.

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