Leading TO experts have boycotted a South Korean university in the course of a partnership with weapons manufacturer Hanwha Systems.
More than 50 researchers from 30 countries have signed a letter expressing concern about his plans to develop the artificial intelligence for the weapons.
In response, the university said that it would not be developing “autonomous lethal weapons”.
The boycott comes ahead of a meeting to discuss the killer robots.
Shin Sung-chul, president of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist), said: “I repeat once again that Kaist does not carry out any research counter to human dignity, including autonomous weapons without meaningful human control.
“Kaist is significantly aware of ethical concerns in the application of all the technologies, including artificial intelligence.”
He went on to explain that the university project has been focused on the development of algorithms for the efficient logistical systems, unmanned air navigation and training systems”.
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Prof Noel Sharkey, who is the head of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, has been one of the first to sign the letter and welcomed the university’s response.
“We received a letter from the president of Kaist, making it clear that they would not help in the development of autonomous weapons systems.
“The signatories of the letter, you will need a little time to discuss the relationship between Kaist and Hanwha before lifting the boycott,” he added.
Until the boycott is lifted, the scholars refuse to cooperate with any part of the Kaist.The Pandora’s box
Next week in Geneva, the 123 member countries of the UN will discuss the challenges posed by lethal autonomous weapons, killer robots, with 22 of these nations to call for an absolute ban on such weapons.
“At a time when the United Nations is discussing how to contain the threat to international security-autonomous weapons, it is regrettable that a prestigious institution such as Kaist seems to accelerate the arms race, developing weapons,” read the letter sent to Kaist, announcing the boycott.
“If developed, autonomous weapons will be the third revolution in war. They allow you to fight faster and to a larger scale than ever before. They have the potential to be weapons of terror.
“Despots and terrorists could use against innocent populations, the removal of any restrictions ethical. This Pandora’s box will be difficult to close if it is open.”
South Korea already has an army of robots that patrol the border with North Korea. The Samsung SGR-A1 carries a machine gun that can be switched in stand-alone mode, but is, at present, managed by human beings through the camera link.