The concept of artificially intelligent machines being developed to a point where they have the capability of destroying humanity has been the stuff of science fiction for decades. Now, concerned investigators warn, major tech companies from countries around the world are helping to turn this threat into a plausible reality.
Dozens of major tech companies from countries including the US, the UK, China, and Israel are engaged in the development of artificial intelligence systems with possible military applications, with some of them creating products which can be used in lethal autonomous weapons systems, a study by Netherlands-based NGO PAX has found.
Analysing tech companies’ potential involvement in the creation of such weapons, also known as ‘killer robots’, PAX defines these systems as arms which are “able to select and attack individual targets without meaningful human control.” The advocacy group warns of the “enormous effect” these technologies can have “on the way war is conducted,” given what PAX says is the implicit agreement to “delegate[e] the decision over life and death” to a machine.
PAX surveyed fifty major tech companies from 12 countries engaged in AI systems, asking them about the extent to which they were or were not involved in the creation of lethal autonomous weapons. They concluded that 21 of these companies were engaged in projects which they deemed of ‘high concern’, with 22 other firms listed as ‘medium concern’, and just seven given a ‘best practice’ rating (meaning they were not engaged in the development of technology which can be used for lethal autonomous weapons).
13 of the 22 ‘high concern’ companies are US-based, and include Amazon, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle. Other countries said to be engaged in projects which put them in the ‘high concern’ category are the UK’s Blue Bear Systems, which is working on the Project Mosquito unmanned combat drone, Canada’s AerialX, working on the DroneBullet project, France’s EarthCube, working on ‘algorithmic warfare tools of the future’, China’s Yitu, working on facial recognition for security use, and Israel’s Roboteam, engaged in the creation of unmanned systems and AI software for semi-autonomous military vehicles.