Leading experts in artificial intelligence have boycotted a South Korean university in association with weapons (Killer Robots) manufacturer Hanwha Systems.
More than 50 AI researchers from 30 countries signed a letter expressing concern over their plans to develop artificial intelligence for weapons.
In response, the university said it would not develop “autonomous lethal weapons.”
The boycott comes before a UN meeting to discuss killer robots.
Shin Sung-chul, president of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist), said: “I reaffirm once again that Kaist will not conduct research activities contrary to human dignity, including autonomous weapons that lack significant human control.
“Kaist is very aware of ethical concerns in the application of all technologies, including artificial intelligence.”
He went on to explain that the university project focused on the development of algorithms for “efficient logistic systems, unmanned navigation, and aeronautical training systems“.
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Professor Noel Sharkey, who runs the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, was one of the first to sign the letter and welcomed the university’s response.
“We received a letter from the president of Kaist that made it clear that they would not help in the development of autonomous weapons systems.
“The signatories of the letter will need a little time to discuss the relationship between Kaist and Hanwha before lifting the boycott,” he added.
Until the boycott is lifted, academics will refuse to collaborate with any part of Kaist.
Next week in Geneva, 123 member countries of the UN will discuss the challenges posed by lethal autonomous weapons or robots. 22 of these nations call for an absolute ban on such weapons.
“At a time when the United Nations is discussing how to contain the threat posed by autonomous weapons for international security. It is regrettable that a prestigious institution such as Kaist seeks to accelerate the arms race to develop such weapons”, Said the letter sent to Kaist. , announcing the boycott.
“If they develop, autonomous weapons will be the third revolution in war. They will allow war to be freed faster and on a larger scale than ever. They have the potential to be weapons of terror.
“Despots and terrorists could use them against innocent populations, eliminating any ethical restrictions, this Pandora’s box will be difficult to close if it is opened.”
South Korea already has an army of robots patrolling the border with North Korea. The Samsung SGR-A1 carries a machine gun that can be switched to stand-alone mode, But, currently, is operated by humans through camera links.