ICRAC opening statement to the 2016 UN CCW Expert Meeting

On April 12, ICRAC’s Juergen Altmann delivered the following statement to the informal “Meeting of Experts“, gathered to discuss questions related to “lethal autonomous weapons systems” from April 11 to April 15 at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

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ICRAC opening statement to the 2016 UN CCW Expert Meeting

Delivered by Jürgen Altmann, Deputy Chair, on 12 April 2016
I speak on behalf of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC in short), a
founding NGO of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. We would very much like to thank
Ambassador Biontino for preparations in chairing this third meeting of experts and for
inviting our members to share their expertise. And we thank all of the States Parties for their
participation.
ICRAC is an international association of scientists, technologists, lawyers, ethicists and policy
experts committed to the peaceful use of robotics and the regulation of robotic weapons.
ICRAC members have carried out research on various aspects of autonomous weapons
systems and published their results in scientific journals as well as at conferences and in mass
media. We are available and willing to provide technical expertise to the High Contracting
Parties.
ICRAC urges the international community to seriously consider the prohibition of
autonomous weapons systems in light of the pressing dangers they pose to global peace and
security. We cannot guarantee the reliability of autonomous systems. Also, they could trigger
accidental conflicts and they threaten to increase the pace of autonomous warfare beyond the
possibility of human control. A specific issue often overlooked is the interaction between two
opposing fleets of autonomous weapon systems. Their interaction could never be tested, it is
utterly unpredictable. An analysis of the ensuing instability is posted on our web site at
icrac.net.
ICRAC, as a group of scientists, technologists and academic experts, understands the
concerns expressed by several States that any new binding instrument banning autonomous
weapons should not have a negative impact on the development of autonomous systems for
peaceful civilian uses. We want to reassure you that a ban of autonomous weapons lacking
meaningful human control would not have a negative impact on civilian uses of robot
autonomy. The prohibition of blinding laser weapons has neither hampered lasers in DVD
players nor in laser pointers. Biological weapons are forbidden while biotechnology is
thriving. For robotics, the same is confirmed by the open letter from the Artificial Intelligence
community signed by more than 20,000 scientists. Scientists see a ban not as a hurdle. On the
contrary, they see it as providing them an assurance that their work will not be weaponized, or
used to create autonomous weapons. A ban will promote innovation in robotics rather than
stifle it.
In conclusion, ICRAC encourages the CCW delegates to move towards a preemptive ban on
the development, production and use of autonomous weapons systems.

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