While at least 22 United Nations member states have voiced an interest in forming a legally-binding instrument to prohibit “lethal autonomous weapons systems,” Russia has now complicated the conversation: Russian diplomats have made it clear that Russia will not help draft or, indeed, agree to any such ban.
In a statement released by the Russian government, Russia questioned the reasonableness of a preemptive ban. “According to the Russian Federation,” it read in part, “the lack of working samples of such weapons systems remains the main problem in the discussion on the LAWS [lethal autonomous weapon systems].”
“Certainly, there are precedents of reaching international agreements that establish a preventive ban on prospective types of weapons,’ the statement continued, “however, this can hardly be considered as an argument for taking preventive prohibitions or restrictive measures against LAWS being a by far more complex and wide class of weapons…”
This echoes previous statements from Russia on the importance of developing Artificial Intelligence. Putin spoke on AI in September, telling a group of school children that “whoever becomes the leader in [the] sphere [of artificial intelligence] will become the ruler of the world.” That statement takes on an ominous tone in conjunction with Russia’s refusal to join a ban on autonomous lethal weapons.
This new statement from Russia is surely a disappointment to the 116 founders of robotic and artificial intelligence companies from 26 countries that signed an open letter earlier this year urging the United Nations to ban artificially intelligent weapons. The group, including SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has has been sounding the alarm in recent years about the possible dangers of AI, fears that irresponsible development of artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to humanity. Read more on Musk’s and other industry leaders’ thoughts on how the rise of AI might affect humanity here.
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