Peers to examine possible uses of autonomous weapons, as well as their legal and ethical ramifications
A parliamentary committee has begun investigating the impact of artificial intelligence-powered weapons that it believes “will determine the future of warfare”.
The House of Lords Committee on Artificial Intelligence in Weapon Systems this week opened a call for evidence on autonomous weapons systems, which it defines as those which can “select and attack a target without human intervention”.
The committee, which clamed that automated weapons “could revolutionise warfare”, is seeking input on the challenges and dangers posed by this technology, as well as its potential benefits. The inquiry will also examine current policy in both the UK and other countries – and whether it adequately addresses issues posed by AI weapons – as well as considering “the technical, legal and ethical safeguards that are necessary to ensure that they are used safely, reliably and accountably”.
In a piece written for PublicTechnology sister publication The House Live, committee chair and crossbench peer Lord Lisvane said that “there is a growing sense that AI will determine the future of warfare”.
He added that, while many armed forces have begun making significant investments in automation technology, “despite these advances, fighting has largely still been carried out by humans”.
“Bringing AI into the realm of fighting through the use of AI powered weapons systems could be a revolution in warfare technology and is one of the most controversial uses of AI today,” he said.
Lisvane pointed to the results of a multinational 2020 poll in which 60% of respondents indicated that they opposed the lethal autonomous weapons.
“These systems could revolutionise warfare, with some suggesting that they would be faster, more accurate and more resilient than existing weapons systems and could limit the casualties of war,” Lisvane added. “However, there are concerns about the ethics of these systems, how they can be used safely and reliably, whether they risk escalating wars more quickly, and about their compliance with International Humanitarian Law.
“We are at the edge of a step change in warfare. It is crucial that the next moves are the right ones.”
The committee is accepting submissions until 4pm on 10 April.