Forthcoming Conferences and Workshops

Raj Madhavan (Amrita University, India) is organizing a scientific workshop on Autonomous Technologies and their Societal Impact, June 20-21, 2016, in Ottawa, Canada, during the International Conference on Prognostics and Health Management at Carleton University. „First in the series“, he writes, „this Workshop is intended to bring together researchers, practitioners, and agencies involved in areas related to autonomous technologies and their impact on society. The proposed Workshop will allow for the identification of the type of autonomous systems that require further attention in terms of their effect in impacting humanity and discussion on their societal impact in both positive and negative ways. Emphasis will be placed not only on technology and public policy issues but also on environmental, cultural, structural, political, and socio-economic factors.“

November 1-3, 2016, the Eight International Conference on Social Robotics will meet in Kansas City, USA, bringing together „researchers and practitioners working on the interaction between humans and robots and on the integration of robots into our society. The theme of the 2016 conference is “Sociorobotics.” Robots will improve quality of human life through assistance, enabling for instance independent living or providing support in work-intensive, difficult and possibly complex situations. The conference aims to foster discussion on the development of computational models, robotic embodiments, and behavior that enable social robots to have an impact on the degree of personalized companionship with humans.“

Again it’s Raj Madhavan who invites to the first International Conference on Robotics and Automation for Humanitarian Applications (RAHA) at Amrita University in Kerala, India, on December 18-20, 2016. The declared aim of the conference is „to provide a platform for researchers, engineers, industry professionals, and humanitarian workers to share knowledge about technological tools, methodologies, and applied robotic and automation solutions for humanitarian applications“.

Support for a Ban on Killer Robots is growing

As the German NGO Facing Finance reports, the support for an international ban on autonomous weapon systems is growing. At the recent informal consultations at the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva 14 countries voted for such a prohibition, among them Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Pakistan, and Vatican State. Progress is slow, though. The expert meeting agreed to recommend to the forthcoming CCW Fifth Review Conference in December 2016 to establish a Group of Governmental Experts who should develop recommendations to the UN on a more formal level over the next two years – what seems like a quite long time considering the rapid progress of the technology. But it’s better than nothing.

Germany’s approach to deal with autonomous weapon systems on a national level has been criticized by several participants of the meeting. „There is no evidence that national assessment procedures ever prevented the development of any weapon system“, says Thomas Küchenmeister from Facing Finance. „Therefore we need a new, preventive convention to prohibit autonomous weapon systems, based on international law.“

Ban on Autonomous Weapons still possible

During this week the third Meeting of Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) is taking place at the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva. Participants of the former meetings told me they expected a more open discussion, since delegates from USA and Great Britain seem to step back from their positions of delaying the proceedings and blocking any decisions against further development of autonomous weapon systems.

I summarized some of the advance statements of participating countries in this article (in German). Meanwhile more papers have been published on the Meeting’s homepage, so you can follow the discussions at least partly from remote.

Generally, there seems to be a growing awareness that artificial intelligence may become much bigger and more powerful than many people have expected so far and therefore deserves much more serious attention. The open question still is, whether this awareness grows fast enough and reaches the higher levels of decisions makers before the technological development has established facts that render any further discussion redundant. The window of opportunity is still open, but will likely close in less than five years.

It’s a Giant Leap

…not just a small step to put arms on drones. Because it is a step on a slippery slope that ignites an arms race that will inevitably lead to robots „firing at will“. The most promising way to avoid autonomous killer robots is to disarm them. I’ll discuss this position

April 27, 2016, 18:00 h
Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik
an der Universität Hamburg

Beim Schlump 83, 20144 Hamburg, Raum 2/023 (2. Stock)

together with Marcel Dickow, Bernhard Koch and Christian Alwardt.

Koch and Alwardt will also report from the latest Meeting of Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS), scheduled for April 11–15 at the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva.

Here you find a more detailed announcement (in German).