Autonomous weapons systems or ‘killer robots’ are causing concern for the international community, and now is the time for a preemptive ban.
As you may have read on our blog, SafeGround Inc has become a member of the international campaign and this page will harbour all of our updates and info regarding activities in Australia.
If you, or an organisation/company you are involved with, are interested in becoming involved with the campaign, have ideas or a way to contribute, or want more regular communication please contact byrne.matilda.j[@]gmail.com
To stay connected and up to date with the international updates we encourage you to check out the ‘Campaign to Stop Killer Robots’ facebook page and the following website https://www.stopkillerrobots.org
Melbourne – Action and Campaign Brainstorm, Saturday 16 March 2pm
Join us at Federation Square for a photo stunt and idea-sharing for how we can grow our presence in Australia. We want our country and society to be a positive influence on this issue – anyone who is interested is welcome to join us from all backgrounds!
Check out the fb event HERE
Sydney – Seminar, Is Now the Time to Ban Lethal Autonomous Weapons? (UNSW Kensington Campus)
Join our national campaign coordinator Matilda Byrne, AI expert Toby Walsh and philospher Jessica Whyte for a seminar designed to broach the issue from different perspectives and highlight the multidisciplinary relevance of killer robots.
Co-hosted by UNSW Grand Challenges of Technology in the 21st Century, for further info visit: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/is-now-the-time-to-ban-lethal-autonomous-weapons-systems-tickets-58682708561
As we stand at a crossroads, with development and deployment of these weapons potentially not so far into the future, we seek instead commitment by countries to a prohibition treaty, those in relevant research and development industries to pledge not to contribute to the advancement of these weapons and to maintain meaningful human control in warfare.
In the last 6 months, there has been significant momentum in international forums, bringing a Ban treaty closer to reality. However, there are still many obstacles. On August 27 2018, The CCW held its sixth meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems. A majority of states called for a legally binding instrument, and others a political declaration. However, the current mandate was to progress in an unchanged form – exploring ‘options’ for future work. Since then, in November, United Nations Secretary General stated ‘machines that have the power and the discretion to take human lives are politically unacceptable, are morally repugnant, and should be banned by international law’, and at the annual CCW meeting states agreed to 7 days of deliberations in 2019 by the Group of Government Experts, though this has been reduced from 10. As of that sessions 28 states seek to prohibit fully autonomous weapons. Strong state positions are crucial at this time to continue creating momentum.
Australia has failed to show support for prohibition of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS). Our country should strive to be a global leader in such efforts however, instead in March 2019 the Australian government announced $9 million of funding to go towards researching this weapons systems to find ‘ethical solutions’ . Although the international AI community has already highlighted why any amount of attempts to program ethical behaviours into these weapons still falls short in international law, this announcement unfortunately comes as no shock.
Australia has routinely attended the relevant CCW meetings and Group of Governmental Experts but are among a small group of states who do not support the negotiation of a prohibition treaty and are opposed to the creation and enforcement of a ban on these weapons. In addition, the Australian Defence Department openly states their autonomous weapons scientific development area conduct a ‘broad range of research activities into machine autonomy consisting of trusted decision making, autonomous systems and unmanned autonomous platforms to undertake tasks that are too risky or too difficult for a manned platform.’ This is consistent with Former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s statements in April last year. She asserted it is premature to support any ban, that with the current policy there will always be some interaction with autonomous weapons and that the government has an interest in emerging technologies which are relevant to the Australian Defence Force. These remarks came in response to an open letter signed by 122 AI experts working in Australia that urged the government to support the international process toward prohibition and take on a position of leadership. The response is disappointing and Australia should be placing itself on the right side of progress – supporting the ban of these weapons.
Professor Toby Walsh of UNSW was the key organiser of the open letter, and also co-directed a pledge to neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade or use of lethal autonomous weapons, signed by 150 companies and more than 2,400 individuals from 90 countries within the technical industry. Professor Toby Walsh’s leadership has been instrumental in highlighting opposition to LAWS in the AI field, and we are fortunate to have him keynote speak at our upcoming event in Sydneyas well as his overall support for the campaign.
You can access Professor Toby Walsh’s blog – The Future of AI where he shares and writes topical commentary including pieces featuring the killer robot debate.
You can stay informed by visiting his blog, and regularly checking this page, or sending your expression of interest to byrne.matilda.j[@] gmail.com to join a mailing list for updates about the campaign, international developments and local activities.