An official report created for President Biden and Congress urged the US government to reject calls for a global ban on autonomous AI-powered weapons because any commitment from Russia or China “would likely be empty.”
The recommendation was made by the United States National Security Commission for AI, a panel led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Work. Work had previously stated that the United States had a “moral imperative” to explore AI weapons.
The new report claims that the United States could use autonomous weapons in a safe and legal manner:
Provided their use is authorized by a commander or human operator, properly designed and tested autonomous and AI-compatible weapons systems can be used in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law.
However, critics were quick to dispute the claims.
“The most experienced AI scientists on the planet have warned them of the consequences, and yet they continue,” Prof. Noel Sharkey, spokesperson for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, told the BBC. “This will lead to serious violations of international law.”
The report was also criticized by the International Committee for the Control of Robotic Weapons. Then go tweeted that the commission featured “all US technology companies seeking a significant share of the US defense budget.”
Autonomous machines that have the power and discretion to select targets and kill without human involvement are politically unacceptable, morally repugnant, and should be prohibited by international law. https://t.co/DhG1DqY8Rx
– António Guterres (@antonioguterres) March 25, 2019
Human Rights Watch and the UN Secretary General António Guterres also called for a ban on fully autonomous weapons. However, only around 30 countries currently support the ban.
With China and the United States among the many absent, activists fear that lethal autonomous weapons will soon become the norm.
Published March 2, 2021 – 19:17 UTC