"Fundamental Existential Threat": Lawmakers Warned of the Risks of Killer Robots
Urgent warnings about the danger of autonomous weapons systems have come from two very different segments of American life this week. On Tuesday, the second highest-ranking general in the U.S. military testified at a Senate hearing that the use of robots during warfare could endanger human lives—echoing concerns brought up by inventor Elon Musk the previous weekend.
Gen. Paul Selva spoke about automation at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying that the “ethical rules of war” should be kept in place even as artificial intelligence (AI) and drone technology advances, “lest we unleash on humanity a set of robots that we don’t know how to control.”
The Defense Department currently mandates that a human must control all actions taken by a drone. But at the hearing, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) suggested that by enforcing that requirement, which is set to expire this year, the U.S. could fall behind other countries including Russia. Peters cited recent reports of Russia’s “ambition to employ AI-directed weapons equipped with a neural network capable of identifying and engaging targets,” and to sell those weapons to other countries.
“Our adversaries often do not to consider the same moral and ethical issues that we consider each and every day,” Peters said.
Selva firmly stated his view that humans should retain decision-making power in the U.S. military.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable for us to put robots in charge of whether or not we take a human life,” Selva told the committee.
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