Call for an International Ban on the Weaponization of Artificial Intelligence

Posted on Monday, November 6, 2017

Professor Ian Kerr and members of the Artificial Intelligence research community are calling on the government to make Canada the 20th country in the world to take a global stand against weaponizing AI – banning any AI systems that would remove meaningful human control in determining the legitimacy of targets and deploying lethal force.

An open letter authored by five Canadian experts in artificial intelligence research urges the Prime Minister to urgently address the challenge of lethal autonomous weapons (often called “killer robots”) and to take a leading position against Autonomous Weapon Systems on the international stage at the upcoming UN meetings in Geneva.

“Delegating life-or-death decisions to machines crosses a fundamental moral line — no matter which side builds or uses them,” says Professor Kerr. “Playing Russian roulette with the lives of others can never be justified merely on the basis of efficacy. This is not only a fundamental issue of human rights. The decision whether to ban or engage autonomous weapons goes to the core of our humanity.”

Signatories of the letter include:

  • Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology, University of Ottawa,
  • Yoshua Bengio, Canada Research Chair in Statistical Learning Algorithms, Université de Montréal,
  • Geoffrey Hinton , Engineering Fellow, Google and Chief Scientific Advisor, The Vector Institute,
  • Rich Sutton, AITF Chair in Reinforcement Learning and Artificial Intelligence, University of Alberta, and,
  • Doina Precup, Canada Research Chair in Machine Learning, McGill University.

The letter and the list of over 200 signatories are viewable on the website of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society. You can add your name to the list of signatories via the online form.

“Although engaged citizens sign petitions every day, it is not often that captains of industry, scientists and technologists call for prohibitions on innovation of any sort — let alone an outright ban,” says Professor Kerr. “The ban is an important signifier. The Canadian AI research community is clear: we must not permit AI to target or kill without meaningful human control.”

Click here to read more about this effort to ban AI that kills.

Click here for more background information on the weaponization of AI, as well as bios of the letter’s authors.

Click here to read Professor Kerr's op-ed in the Globe and Mail, "Weaponized AI would have deadly, catastrophic consequences. Where will Canada side?"

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