AI News, 'Killer robots': AI experts call for boycott over lab at South Korea university

'Killer robots': AI experts call for boycott over lab at South Korea university

Artificial intelligence researchers from nearly 30 countries are boycotting a South Korean university over concerns a new lab in partnership with a leading defence company could lead to “killer robots”.

“There are plenty of great things you can do with AI that save lives, including in a military context, but to openly declare the goal is to develop autonomous weapons and have a partner like this sparks huge concern,” said Toby Walsh, the organiser of the boycott and a professor at the University of New South Wales.

Walsh was initially concerned when a Korea Times article described KAIST as “joining the global competition to develop autonomous arms” and promptly wrote to the university asking questions but did not receive a response.

“I reaffirm once again that KAIST will not conduct any research activities counter to human dignity including autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control.” KAIST opened the research centre for the convergence of national defence and artificial intelligence on 20 February, with Shin saying at the time it would “provide a strong foundation for developing national defence technology”.

The centre will focus on “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”, the since-deleted announcement said.

AI and Robotics Researchers Boycott South Korea Tech Institute Over Development of AI Weapons Technology

The press release for the ending of the boycott explained: “More than 50 of the world’s leading artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics researchers from 30 different countries have declared they would end a boycott of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), South Korea’s top university, over the opening of an AI weapons lab in collaboration with Hanwha Systems, a major arms company.

The boycott, organized by AI researcher Toby Walsh, was announced just days before the start of the next United Nations Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) meeting in which countries will discuss how to address challenges posed by autonomous weapons.  “At a time when the United Nations is discussing how to contain the threat posed to international security by autonomous weapons, it is regrettable that a prestigious institution like KAIST looks to accelerate the arms race to develop such weapons,” the boycott letter states.  The letter also explains the concerns AI researchers have regarding autonomous weapons: “If developed, autonomous weapons will be the third revolution in warfare.

Explaining the boycott, the letter states: “We therefore publicly declare that we will boycott all collaborations with any part of KAIST until such time as the President of KAIST provides assurances, which we have sought but not received, that the Center will not develop autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control.

We will, for example, not visit KAIST, host visitors from KAIST, or contribute to any research project involving KAIST.” In February, the Korean Times reported on the opening of the Research Center for the Convergence of National Defense and Artificial Intelligence, which was formed as a partnership between KAIST and Hanwha to “[join] the global competition to develop autonomous arms.” The Korean Times article added that “researchers from the university and Hanwha will carry out various studies into how technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be utilized on future battlefields.” In the press release for the boycott, Walsh referenced concerns that he and other AI researchers have had since 2015, when he and FLI released an open letter signed by thousands of researchers calling for a ban on autonomous weapons.

… But the consensus-based nature of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in which these talks have been held means that even though the vast majority of states are ready and willing to take some kind of action now, they cannot because a minority opposes it.” Walsh adds, “I am hopeful that this boycott will add urgency to the discussions at the UN that start on Monday.

Leading AI researchers threaten Korean university with boycott over its work on ‘killer robots’

More than 50 leading AI and robotics researchers have said they will boycott South Korea’s KAIST university over the institute’s plans to help develop AI-powered weapons.

The threat was announced ahead of a UN meeting set in Geneva next week to discuss international restrictions on so-called “killer robots.” It marks an escalation in tactics from the part of the scientific community actively fighting for stronger controls on AI-controlled weaponry.

The boycott would forbid all contact and academic collaboration with KAIST until the university makes assurances that the weaponry it develops will have “meaningful human control.” The trigger for this action was KAIST’s announcement in February that it was launching a joint research center with South Korean defense company Hanwha Systems.

According to The Korean Times, the goal of the center is to “develop artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to be applied to military weapons” that would “search for and eliminate targets without human control.” But according to a report from Times Higher Education, KAIST’s president Sung-Chul Shin said he was “saddened” by the threatened boycott, and denies that the university is building autonomous weapon systems at all.

Boycott organizer Walsh told Times Higher Education he would need to consult with his co-signatories on what to do next, and added that KAIST’s response still left ”some questions unanswered.” KAIST’s partnership with Hanwha brings together two of the world’s leading robotics and military organizations.

'Killer robots': AI experts call for boycott over lab at South Korea university

Artificial intelligence researchers from nearly 30 countries are boycotting a South Korean university over concerns a new lab in partnership with a leading defence company could lead to “killer robots”.

“There are plenty of great things you can do with AI that save lives, including in a military context, but to openly declare the goal is to develop autonomous weapons and have a partner like this sparks huge concern,” said Toby Walsh, the organiser of the boycott and a professor at the University of New South Wales.

Walsh was initially concerned when a Korea Times article described KAIST as “joining the global competition to develop autonomous arms” and promptly wrote to the university asking questions but did not receive a response.

“I reaffirm once again that KAIST will not conduct any research activities counter to human dignity including autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control.” KAIST opened the research centre for the convergence of national defence and artificial intelligence on 20 February, with Shin saying at the time it would “provide a strong foundation for developing national defence technology”.

The centre will focus on “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”, the since-deleted announcement said.

South Korean university’s AI work for defense contractor draws boycott

Fifty-seven scientists from 29 countries have called for a boycott of a top South Korean university because of a new center aimed at using artificial intelligence (AI) to bolster national security.

A web page that has since been removed by the university said the center, to be operated jointly with South Korean defense company Hanwha Systems, would work on “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.” Toby Walsh, a computer scientist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, who organized the boycott, fears that the research will be applied to autonomous weapons, which can include unmanned flying drones or submarines, cruise missiles, autonomously operated sentry guns, or battlefield robots.

“We therefore publicly declare that we will boycott all collaborations with any part of KAIST until such time as the President of KAIST provides assurances, which we have sought but not received, that the Center will not develop autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control.” In response to a query fromScienceInsider, KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin prepared a statement ruling out such activities.

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