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By 18 July 2018 | Categories: news

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The thought of autonomous AI weapons should leave not just The Terminator fans quaking in their boots. While we can imagine there’s some company (or government) working on these already, the world feels like a slightly safer place after the recent Lethal Autonomous Weapons Pledge, lead by the Future of Life Institute.

Some 2400 companies and individuals have signed that, “the decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine,” noting that they will neither participate or support the development of lethal autonomous weapons.

Amongst those that took the pledge is the co-founders of DeepMind, Elon Musk, and a number of professors and CEOs. Companies have also committed to these values, including Google Deep Mind, the Xprize Foundation and a number of other businesses and research institutions.

Apart from this pledge, 26 countries in the world, including Zimbabwe but excluding South Africa, have endorsed a call for a ban on lethal autonomous weapon systems.

The pledge notes that, “lethal autonomous weapons, selecting and engaging targets without human intervention, would be dangerously destabilising for every country and individual.”

That seems to be quite obvious, but it also states that, “lethal autonomous weapons have characteristics quite different from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the unilateral actions of a single group could too easily spark an arms race that the international community lacks the technical tools and global governance systems to manage.”

Those who signed called on governments and leaders to create laws and regulations against lethal autonomous weapons. They noted that they will hold themselves accountable too, and that they will not support, “development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons.”

This pledge follows close to Microsoft’s call for regulation regarding facial recognition, with the company concerned that it can be misused by governments and private companies.

Indeed, the Lethal Autonomous Weapons Pledge states that part of the concern is how these weapons link up to to surveillance and data systems.

How far this pledge will go to start worldwide legislation remains to be seen. We also can’t help but notice that there are a number of important signatures missing on this pledge, including that of Microsoft, IBM, Facebook and Apple.

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