Stuart Russell is currently a professor of computer science, director of the Center for Intelligent Systems, and holder of the Smith-Zadeh Chair in Engineering at UC Berkeley. He has published over 100 papers on a wide range of topics in artificial intelligence. His books include “The Use of Knowledge in Analogy and Induction” (Pitman, 1989), “Do the Right Thing: Studies in Limited Rationality” (with Eric Wefald, MIT Press, 1991), and “Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach” (with Peter Norvig, Prentice Hall, 1995, 2003).
Autonomous weapons systems select and engage targets without human intervention; they become lethal when those targets include humans. LAWS might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate enemy combatants in a city, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. The artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics communities face an important ethical decision: whether to support or oppose the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS).
The UN has held three major meetings in Geneva under the auspices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, or CCW, to discuss the possibility of a treaty banning autonomous weapons. There is at present broad agreement on the need for “meaningful human control” over selection of targets and decisions to apply deadly force. Much work remains to be done on refining the necessary definitions and identifying exactly what should or should not be included in any proposed treaty.
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