AI Experts Boycott South Korean University Teaming Up with Weapons Manufacturer

Academics around the world request boycott over KAIST’s collaboration with South Korea's largest weapons maker.

Leaders from the Artificial Intelligence community have signed a letter calling for a boycott of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) after it announced it would partner with defense manufacturer Hanwha Systems. The AI experts fear the collaboration could lead to the development of deadly autonomous weapons.

Defense & Military

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The letter says the signed parties would not work with the university or host visitors from KAIST if the unsavory partnership continued. The partnership between KAIST and Hanwha is reportedly set to lead to the creation of the "Research Center for the Convergence of National Defense and Artificial Intelligence", whose goals are to "develop artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to be applied to military weapons, joining the global competition to develop autonomous arms." 

The UN will meet to discuss autonomous weapons

The United Nations will meet next week in Geneva to discuss autonomous weapons. More than 20 countries have already publicly called for the UN to create a total ban on killer robots. 

The recent rise of AI technology has caused many to fear possible collaborations between scientists and weapon makers will result in the proliferation of killer robots. Hanwha makes a type of cluster munition which releases smaller submunitions on detonation that have a devastating effect on its target. 

These types of weapons are banned in 120 countries under an international treaty. South Korea, Russia, China and the U.S. are not signatories to the ban. 

Boycott organizer demands answers

The organizer of the boycott, Toby Walsh from the University of New South Wales said when he heard of the collaboration he immediately contacted the university but received no reply.

“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.”

“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,” he said.

“This is a very respected university partnering with a very ethically dubious partner that continues to violate international norms.” President of KAIST is reportedly saddened by the news of the boycott that affects the entire University and not just members of the robotics laboratory. 

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“I would like to reaffirm that KAIST does not have any intention to engage in development of lethal autonomous weapons systems and killer robots,” Shin said in a statement. “As an academic institution, we value human rights and ethical standards to a very high degree,” he added. 

“I reaffirm once again that KAIST will not conduct any research activities counter to human dignity including autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control.” More than 16 leading engineers, scientists and business leaders petitioned the UN last year to place a ban on any development of killer robots. 

UN must act fast says letter signatories

CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk was among the signatories that also included Stephen Hawking. The founders wrote: “Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. 

These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”

Via: UNSW

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