Killer Robots? Germany Says Nein!

In a recent meeting of the United Nations’ Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), world leaders have considered a possible ban on so-called “killer robots”—technically a misnomer, as these autonomous weapons aren’t limited to just the robotic type. Now, at the annual Munich Security Conference (MSC), Germany made it clear they’re not interested in developing autonomous weapon systems. However, they are not about to allow another country to use them against Germany either.

“We have a very clear position. We have no intention of procuring […] autonomous systems,” said Lieutenant General Ludwig Leinhos, head of Germany’s new Cyber and Information Space Command, according to eNCA. However, he made it clear that the German military is not simply choosing not to engage with the issue, but is prepared to defend the country against potential attacks carried out by foreign remote weapons.

Before you begin to wonder what the armies of robots may look like trying to land on Normandy Beach, take a look at the video to see what’s possible today with a swarm of drones assigned to take out an enemy target. Terrifying, to say the least.

U.N. officials agree that it’s a frightening prospect. Critics include many of the world’s most prominent experts in AI, who sent an open-letter to the UN calling for a ban on autonomous weapons. Among these is long-time AI researcher Stuart Russell, who once told Futurism that weaponizing AI would bring society more harm than good. Various other groups, including Harvard’s AI Initiative, Amnesty International and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots expressed similar concerns.

Germany is not the first country to make such a pledge.  Australia and Canada, as well as the United Kingdom which had declared a ban earlier in 2017. 

There are activists worldwide that continue to rally against some countries, including the U.S., because they will not commit to cease exploring the use of “killer robots.” Various other groups, including Harvard’s AI Initiative, Amnesty International, and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots express similar concern.