Scientists have called on the United Nations to slow the development of artificially intelligent weapons systems over fears they could lead to “killer robots”.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, made up of figures from non-governmental organisations around the world, including AI experts, attended a meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva to push for greater regulation on AI in weaponry.

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The group, in partnership with the Future of Life Institute, released a dramatic short film showing a dystopian near-future world under threat from autonomous killer robots.

The film shows a military technology firm unveiling autonomous drones able to identify and kill targets, before cutting to mock news stories about the smart drones being used as part of terrorist attacks.

Though the campaign acknowledges such technology does not yet exist – and that all current AI systems retain a level of human control – they say they fear for the future.

The group says that if the advance of low-cost sensors and artificial intelligence continues, weapons systems that can fire on targets without meaningful human control are a real risk of becoming reality.

It is calling on “all nations” to join the 19 countries who have already called for a ban on lethal autonomous weapon systems and “work towards that objective”.

Noel Sharkey of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control – a partner of the Campaign – said: “The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is not trying to stifle innovation in artificial intelligence and robotics and it does not wish to ban autonomous systems in the civilian or military world.

“Rather we see an urgent need to prevent automation of the critical functions for selecting targets and applying violent force without human deliberation and to ensure meaningful human control for every attack.”

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