Founders of AI/robotics companies, including Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, OpenAI) and Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman (Google’s DeepMind), call for an autonomous weapons ban, as UN delays negotiations.
Leaders from AI and robotics companies around the world have released an open letter calling on the United Nations to ban autonomous weapons, often referred to as killer robots.
Founders and CEOs of nearly 100 companies from 26 countries signed the letter, which warns:
“Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend.”
In December, 123 member nations of the UN had agreed to move forward with formal discussions about autonomous weapons, with 19 members already calling for an outright ban. However, the next stage of discussions, which were originally scheduled to begin on August 21 — the release date of the open letter — was postponed because a small number of nations hadn’t paid their fees.
The letter was organized and announced by Toby Walsh, a prominent AI researcher at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. In an email, he noted that “sadly, the UN didn’t begin today its formal deliberations around lethal autonomous weapons.”
“There is, however, a real urgency to take action here and prevent a very dangerous arms race,” Walsh added, “This open letter demonstrates clear concern and strong support for this from the Robotics & AI industry.”
The open letter included such signatories as:
• Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, SpaceX and OpenAI (USA)
• Demis Hassabis, founder and CEO at Google’s DeepMind (UK)
• Mustafa Suleyman, founder and Head of Applied AI at Google’s DeepMind (UK)
• Esben Østergaard, founder & CTO of Universal Robotics (Denmark)
• Jerome Monceaux, founder of Aldebaran Robotics, makers of Nao and Pepper robots (France)
• Jürgen Schmidhuber, leading deep learning expert and founder of Nnaisense (Switzerland)
• Yoshua Bengio, leading deep learning expert and founder of Element AI (Canada)
In reference to the signatories, the press release for the letter added, “Their companies employ tens of thousands of researchers, roboticists and engineers, are worth billions of dollars and cover the globe from North to South, East to West: Australia, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, UK, United Arab Emirates and USA.”
Bengio explained why he signed, saying, “the use of AI in autonomous weapons hurts my sense of ethics.” He added that the development of autonomous weapons “would be likely to lead to a very dangerous escalation,” and that “it would hurt the further development of AI’s good applications.” He concluded his statement to FLI saying that this “is a matter that needs to be handled by the international community, similarly to what has been done in the past for some other morally wrong weapons (biological, chemical, nuclear).”
Stuart Russell, another of the world’s preeminent AI researchers and founder of Bayesian Logic Inc., added:
“Unless people want to see new weapons of mass destruction – in the form of vast swarms of lethal microdrones – spreading around the world, it’s imperative to step up and support the United Nations’ efforts to create a treaty banning lethal autonomous weapons. This is vital for national and international security.”
Ryan Gariepy, founder & CTO of Clearpath Robotics was the first to sign the letter. For the press release, he noted, “Autonomous weapons systems are on the cusp of development right now and have a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability.”
The open letter ends with similar concerns. It states:
“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. We therefore implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers.”
The letter was announced in Melbourne, Australia at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI), which draws many of the world’s top artificial intelligence researchers. Two years ago, at the last IJCAI meeting, Walsh released another open letter, which called on countries to avoid engaging in an AI arms race. To date, that previous letter has been signed by over 20,000 people, including over 3,100 AI/robotics researchers.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON CERTAIN CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS
As companies building the technologies in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, we feel especially responsible for raising this alarm. We warmly welcome the decision of the UN’s Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) to establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems. Many of our researchers and engineers are eager to offer technical advice to your deliberations.
We commend the appointment of Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill of India as chair of the GGE. We entreat the High Contracting Parties participating in the GGE to work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies. We regret that the GGE’s first meeting, which was due to start today (August 21, 2017), has been cancelled due to a small number of states failing to pay their financial contributions to the UN. We urge the High Contracting Parties, therefore, to double their efforts at the first meeting of the GGE now planned for November.
Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought on 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. We, therefore, implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers.
FULL LIST OF SIGNATORIES TO THE OPEN LETTER
To add your company, please contact Toby Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tiberio Caetano, founder & Chief Scientist at Ambiata, Australia.
Mark Chatterton and Leo Gui, founders, MD & of Ingenious AI, Australia.
Charles Gretton, founder of Hivery, Australia.
Brad Lorge, founder & CEO of Premonition.io, Australia
Brenton O’Brien, founder & CEO of Microbric, Australia.
Samir Sinha, founder & CEO of Robonomics AI, Australia.
Ivan Storr, founder & CEO, Blue Ocean Robotics, Australia.
Peter Turner, founder & MD of Tribotix, Australia.
Yoshua Bengio, founder of Element AI & Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, Canada.
Ryan Gariepy, founder & CTO, Clearpath Robotics, found & CTO of OTTO Motors, Canada.
James Chow, founder & CEO of UBTECH Robotics, China.
Robert Li, founder & CEO of Sankobot, China.
Marek Rosa, founder & CEO of GoodAI, Czech Republic.
Søren Tranberg Hansen, founder & CEO of Brainbotics, Denmark.
Markus Järve, founder & CEO of Krakul, Estonia.
Harri Valpola, founder & CTO of ZenRobotics, founder & CEO of Curious AI Company, Finland.
Esben Østergaard, founder & CTO of Universal Robotics, Denmark.
Raul Bravo, founder & CEO of DIBOTICS, France.
Raphael Cherrier, founder & CEO of Qucit, France.
Jerome Monceaux, founder & CEO of Spoon.ai, founder & CCO of Aldebaran Robotics, France.
Charles Ollion, founder & Head of Research at Heuritech, France.
Anis Sahbani, founder & CEO of Enova Robotics, France.
Alexandre Vallette, founder of SNIPS & Ants Open Innovation Labs, France.
Marcus Frei, founder & CEO of NEXT.robotics, Germany.
Kirstinn Thorisson, founder & Director of Icelandic Institute for Intelligence Machines, Iceland.
Fahad Azad, founder of Robosoft Systems, India.
Debashis Das, Ashish Tupate, Jerwin Prabu, founders (incl. CEO) of Bharati Robotics, India.
Pulkit Gaur, founder & CTO of Gridbots Technologies, India.
Pranay Kishore, founder & CEO of Phi Robotics Research, India.
Shahid Memom, founder & CTO of Vanora Robots, India.
Krishnan Nambiar & Shahid Memon, founders, CEO & CTO of Vanora Robotics, India.
Achu Wilson, founder & CTO of Sastra Robotics, India.
Neill Gernon, founder & MD of Atrovate, founder of Dublin.AI, Ireland.
Parsa Ghaffari, founder & CEO of Aylien, Ireland.
Alan Holland, founder & CEO of Keelvar Systems, Ireland.
Alessandro Prest, founder & CTO of LogoGrab, Ireland.
Alessio Bonfietti, founder & CEO of MindIT, Italy.
Angelo Sudano, founder & CTO of ICan Robotics, Italy.
Shigeo Hirose, Michele Guarnieri, Paulo Debenest, & Nah Kitano, founders, CEO & Directors of HiBot Corporation, Japan.
Luis Samahí García González, founder & CEO of QOLbotics, Mexico.
Koen Hindriks & Joachim de Greeff, founders, CEO & COO at Interactive Robotics, the Netherlands.
Maja Rudinac, founder and CEO of Robot Care Systems, the Netherlands.
Jaap van Leeuwen, founder and CEO Blue Ocean Robotics Benelux, the Netherlands.
Dyrkoren Erik, Martin Ludvigsen & Christine Spiten, founders, CEO, CTO & Head of Marketing at BlueEye Robotics, Norway.
Sergii Kornieiev, founder & CEO of BaltRobotics, Poland.
Igor Kuznetsov, founder & CEO of NaviRobot, Russian Federation.
Aleksey Yuzhakov & Oleg Kivokurtsev, founders, CEO & COO of Promobot, Russian Federation.
Junyang Woon, founder & CEO, Infinium Robotics, former Branch Head & Naval Warfare Operations Officer, Singapore.
Jasper Horrell, founder of DeepData, South Africa.
Toni Ferrate, founder & CEO of RO-BOTICS, Spain.
José Manuel del Río, founder & CEO of Aisoy Robotics, Spain.
Victor Martin, founder & CEO of Macco Robotics, Spain.
Timothy Llewellynn, founder & CEO of nViso, Switzerland.
Francesco Mondada, founder of K-Team, Switzerland.
Jurgen Schmidhuber, Faustino Gomez, Jan Koutník, Jonathan Masci & Bas Steunebrink, founders, President & CEO of Nnaisense, Switzerland.
Satish Ramachandran, founder of AROBOT, United Arab Emirates.
Silas Adekunle, founder & CEO of Reach Robotics, UK.
Steve Allpress, founder & CTO of FiveAI, UK.
Joel Gibbard and Samantha Payne, founders, CEO & COO of Open Bionics, UK.
Richard Greenhill & Rich Walker, founders & MD of Shadow Robot Company, UK.
Nic Greenway, founder of React AI Ltd (Aiseedo), UK.
Daniel Hulme, founder & CEO of Satalia, UK.
Charlie Muirhead & Tabitha Goldstaub, founders & CEO of CognitionX, UK.
Geoff Pegman, founder & MD of R U Robots, UK.
Demis Hassabis & Mustafa Suleyman, founders, CEO & Head of Applied AI, DeepMind, UK.
Donald Szeto, Thomas Stone & Kenneth Chan, founders, CTO, COO & Head of Engineering of PredictionIO, UK.
Antoine Biondeau, founder & CEO of Sentient Technologies, USA.
Brian Gerkey, founder & CEO of Open Source Robotics, USA.
Ryan Hickman & Soohyun Bae, founders, CEO & CTO of TickTock.AI, USA.
Henry Hu, founder & CEO of Cafe X Technologies, USA.
Alfonso Íñiguez, founder & CEO of Swarm Technology, USA.
Gary Marcus, founder & CEO of Geometric Intelligence (acquired by Uber), USA.
Brian Mingus, founder & CTO of Latently, USA.
Mohammad Musa, founder & CEO at Deepen AI, USA.
Elon Musk, founder, CEO & CTO of SpaceX, co-founder & CEO of Tesla Motor, USA.
Rosanna Myers & Dan Corkum, founders, CEO & CTO of Carbon Robotics, USA.
Erik Nieves, founder & CEO of PlusOne Robotics, USA.
Steve Omohundro, founder & President of Possibility Research, USA.
Jeff Orkin, founder & CEO, Giant Otter Technologies, USA.
Dan Reuter, found & CEO of Electric Movement, USA.
Alberto Rizzoli & Simon Edwardsson, founders & CEO of AIPoly, USA.
Dan Rubins, founder & CEO of Legal Robot, USA.
Stuart Russell, founder & VP of Bayesian Logic Inc., USA.
Andrew Schroeder, founder of WeRobotics, USA.
Gabe Sibley & Alex Flint, founders, CEO & CPO of Zippy.ai, USA.
Martin Spencer, founder & CEO of GeckoSystems, USA.
Peter Stone, Mark Ring & Satinder Singh, founders, President/COO, CEO & CTO of Cogitai, USA.
Michael Stuart, founder & CEO of Lucid Holdings, USA.
Massimiliano Versace, founder, CEO & President, Neurala Inc, USA.