World researchers shun South Korea university for opening AI weapons lab

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology launched the AI research centre with Hanwha Systems Co., a defence electronics company

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 9:54am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 10:26pm

More than 50 artificial intelligence and robotics researchers from around the world declared that they will “boycott all contact” with a leading South Korean research university in protest at the opening of an AI weapons lab there.

“If developed, autonomous weapons will be the third revolution in warfare. They will permit war to be fought faster and at a scale greater than ever before. They have the potential to be weapons of terror … This Pandora’s box will be hard to close if it is opened,” the researchers from 30 countries, including Australia, Japan and the United States, as well as two regions warned in an open letter.

The researchers’ declaration to cut off ties with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology came as a UN panel of experts began talks to explore ways to address international security challenges posed by autonomous weapons in November.

“It is regrettable that a prestigious institution like KAIST looks to accelerate the arms race to develop such weapons,” the researchers said in the letter, adding that the university research centre reportedly aims to “develop AI technologies to be applied to military weapons, joining the global competition to develop autonomous arms.”

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The South Korean university launched the AI research centre with Hanwha Systems Co., a defence electronics company purportedly said to be involved in cluster bombs that are criticised as inhumane weapons.

It aims to develop technologies for operational command, target tracking and unstaffed underwater transport.

The researchers said they 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 centre will not develop autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control.”

The boycott was organised by Toby Walsh, one of Australia’s leading AI experts.

Major arms exporters such as the United States and Russia have been cautious about imposing regulations for autonomous weapons.