Open letter on the subject of Autonomous Weapons that use Artificial Intelligence technology at IFIP GA 2015

INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION FOR INFORMATION PROCESSING
GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2015
MOTION FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The General Assembly is asked to endorse the following motion.
“General Assembly notes the open letter on the subject of Autonomous Weapons that use Artificial
Intelligence technology which can be seen at
http://futureoflife.org/AI/open_letter_autonomous_weapons

It has so far been signed by almost
3,000 Artificial Intelligence and Robotics researchers and endorsed by 17,000 others including
Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and Noam Chomsky.
The General Assembly endorses the concerns expressed in the letter, including the dangers involved
in a global AI arms race and calls for a worldwide ban on offensive autonomous weapons that are
beyond meaningful human control.”
Max Bramer
IFIP Vice-President
September 2015
The text of the open letter is reproduced below for ease of reference.
Autonomous Weapons: an Open Letter from AI & Robotics Researchers
Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for
example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined
criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all
targeting decisions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment
of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are
high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder
and nuclear arms.
Many arguments have been made for and against autonomous weapons, for example that replacing
human soldiers by machines is good by reducing casualties for the owner but bad by thereby lowering
the threshold for going to battle. The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI
arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon
development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological
trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. Unlike
nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become
ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce. It will only be a matter of
time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better
control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc. Autonomous weapons
are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively
killing a particular ethnic group. We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be
beneficial for humanity. There are many ways in which AI can make battlefields safer for humans,
especially civilians, without creating new tools for killing people.
Just as most chemists and biologists have no interest in building chemical or biological weapons,
most AI researchers have no interest in building AI weapons — and do not want others to tarnish
their field by doing so, potentially creating a major public backlash against AI that curtails its future
societal benefits. Indeed, chemists and biologists have broadly supported international agreements
that have successfully prohibited chemical and biological weapons, just as most physicists supported
the treaties banning space-based nuclear weapons and blinding laser weapons.
In summary, we believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways, and that the
goal of the field should be to do so. Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be
prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.
A related article on this topic is given at
http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/2014/05/nobel-peace-laureates-call-for-preemptive-ban-on-killerrobots/

This open letter was announced July 28 at the opening of the IJCAI 2015 conference on July 28.

Journalists who wish to see the press release may contact Toby Walsh.
Hosting, signature verification and list management are supported by FLI; for administrative questions about this letter, please contact Max Tegmark.

Autonomous Weapons: an Open Letter from AI & Robotics Researchers

Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.

Many arguments have been made for and against autonomous weapons, for example that replacing human soldiers by machines is good by reducing casualties for the owner but bad by thereby lowering the threshold for going to battle. The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce. It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc. Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group. We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity. There are many ways in which AI can make battlefields safer for humans, especially civilians, without creating new tools for killing people.

Just as most chemists and biologists have no interest in building chemical or biological weapons, most AI researchers have no interest in building AI weapons — and do not want others to tarnish their field by doing so, potentially creating a major public backlash against AI that curtails its future societal benefits. Indeed, chemists and biologists have broadly supported international agreements that have successfully prohibited chemical and biological weapons, just as most physicists supported the treaties banning space-based nuclear weapons and blinding laser weapons.

In summary, we believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways, and that the goal of the field should be to do so. Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.

List of signatories

they are near 300 pages with 2 columns of signatories

About Raymond Morel (2053 Articles)
Raymond Morel is a member of the Board of Directors at SI and is President of Social-IN3, a cooperative of a researchers’ convinced of the need to address new challenges of today's Information Age, which is slowly and surely modify the entire society.

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