A group of scientists from around the world will converge today for a gathering of the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to discuss what they believe is a grave threat to humanity that isn’t being properly addressed.
Among those scientists will be University of California-Berkeley professor Stuart Russell, who will show a short film produced by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which depicts one of a number of possible disturbing scenarios should humans lose control of such weapon systems. The film depicts a small hunter-killer drone, which falls into the wrong hands and begins killing politicians and activists at will.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Russell describes the seriousness of the threat, saying:
"The technology illustrated in the film is simply an integration of existing capabilities. It is not science fiction. In fact, it is easier to achieve than self-driving cars, which require far higher standards of performance."
Russell notes the world’s militaries are the single-largest benefactor of projects aimed at developing weapon systems that can find, track, and attack targets without human supervision. They also are on the leading edge of funding artificial intelligence research to “enhance” those autonomous weapon systems.
After watching the CSKR video, a long-time advocate for a ban on killer robots, International Committee on Robot Arms Control Chairman Noel Sharkey, a University of Sheffield professor, told the SCMP the film made his “hair stand on end.” He added:
"There is an emerging arms race among the hi-tech nations to develop autonomous submarines, fighter jets, battleships and tanks that can find their own targets and apply violent force without the involvement of meaningful human decisions. It will only take one major war to unleash these new weapons with tragic humanitarian consequences and destabilisation of global security."