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  1. Killer Robots: South Korean university faces censure from scientists because of its research facility on AI-guided weapons

Killer Robots: South Korean university faces censure from scientists because of its research facility on AI-guided weapons

A top South Korean university is facing an unprecedented challenge—57 top scientists from 29 countries have called for its boycott, because it set up a new centre for research that aims at integrating artificial intelligence (AI) with national security and defence.

By: | Published: April 7, 2018 1:15 AM
South Korea, South Korea university, scientists, robots, artificial intelligence A top South Korean university is facing an unprecedented challenge—57 top scientists from 29 countries have called for its boycott, because it set up a new centre for research that aims at integrating artificial intelligence (AI) with national security and defence.

A top South Korean university is facing an unprecedented challenge—57 top scientists from 29 countries have called for its boycott, because it set up a new centre for research that aims at integrating artificial intelligence (AI) with national security and defence (read AI-guided weapons). The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology’s (KAIST’s) website had a page—now removed—that said that the centre, to be jointly operated with South Korean defence manufacturer Hanwha Systems, “AI-based command and decision systems, composite navigation algorithms for mega-scale unmanned undersea vehicles, AI-based smart aircraft training systems, and AI-based smart object tracking and recognition technology.” Critics say the centre effectively formalises a global autonomous weapons race, and have sought full assurance that the centre will not be used to develop weapons that can be operated without meaningful human control—“killer robots”, as they have dubbed such weapons—for the boycott to be lifted. KAIST claims to be aware of the ethical concerns surrounding autonomous weapons and says that it “doesn’t have any intention to engage in development of lethal autonomous weapons systems and killer robots.” All this comes in the backdrop of the United Nations Group of Government Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems being scheduled to grapple with what constitutes “meaningful human control”, among other matters. Uncertainty over AI and autonomous machines is not to be easily discounted—a self-driving car killed a person only last month, because of human behaviour that its machine-learning had not factored and couldn’t predict. In such a scenario, concerns over AI-guided weapons, even partially autonomous ones, are legitimate and a more circumspect stance needs to be taken on it. However, top scientists lending weight to a boycott against an entire university seems unfair. There needs to be greater understanding of AI—which, at the moment, seems to be quite unevolved—before bans and boycotts become the appropriate response. It is wise to stall the coming of Terminators, but not before Skynet is even a germ of an idea.

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