AI and Future Society: Ben Donaldson


Thank you very much My name is Ben, I work for the United Nations Association We’re a charity – a UK-based charity and we work
to try and make sure the UK is doing the right thing on the world stage So we follow lots of different UN processes,
but one of the UN processes we’re following most closely is the UN process to do with lethal autonomous weapon systems. We mainly work on peace and security issues,
and for us this is an issue that holds immense threat, I think for society and the way in which states do the worst thing they could possibly do which is go to war with each other. Historically, since 2001 when armed drones first came into action,
they were rushed into action following 9/11 and since then, we’ve seen more than 10 different states around the world acquire this technology and dozens of other states in the process of trying to create armed weapon systems
such as these armed drones. But there is a fundamental difference – and this is what the UN is discussing now. There is a fundamental difference between he idea of a drone
and a lethal autonomous weapon system. A drone is still being controlled – the release of force is being controlled by a human
– that human may not be in the cockpit the same as traditional airbased warfare but there is still someone in control deciding when to release force. A lethal autonomous weapon system is different because there is no human in the loop so this decision to delegate the use of lethal force to a machine presents
us with a very very different calculation that right now, the way that militaries are developing and the amount of
money that is being put in to these sorts of developments is making the possibility of this sort of weapon being created
very real and is something we need to consider. So the main preoccupation of the discussions of the United Nations are to do with hi-tech,
lethal autonomous weapon systems. Lots of people say, well we’ve had land mines for a long time, we’ve had sea mines,
we’ve had boobie traps and there’s all sorts of other weapon systems that don’t have a human in the loop – the difference is that those weapon systems have already been banned. There’s an anti-personnel landmines ban to stop people using landmines,
to stope people developing them, to stop people deploying them. The decision to ban those weapons was largely based around human control because it is considered that once that mine or once that weapon is deployed there is not a moment of human deliberation in between in between when that weapon
is used and whether or not that weapon should be used. There are also biological and chemical weapons which set an interesting precedent for us. it is also believed that once they are used, once they are released
– the nerve agent or the biological agent is released, there is a lack of control over what happens to those agents after they’ve been released. So for those reasons we have a biological weapons convention – we have a chemical weapons convention Now these, as we know from what is happening in Syria,
these chemical weapons conventions and these pieces of international law
are not perfect and they don’t stop every single attack from happening. What they do do, is create a stigma against the use of this weapon, and they create an international consensus over what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. For me, the most important aspect of this issue isn’t actually that international law based approach it is the moral approach as to lethal autonomous weapon systems. To delegate the decision of life and death to a machine for me crosses a fundamental moral line. It is hard also to see in principle if we are happy to delegate that decision
to a machine what we would not be happy to delegate in the future like nuclear weapons for example. Should the decision over the use of nuclear weapons be delegated to a machine? Running government, the decision about going to war It is hard to see if we allow the use of killer robots to make those decision
then where would we draw that line. So I am looking forward to finding out what your opinions are on this later on
And, thank you very much.

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