U.N. General Assembly Calls for Rulemaking on ‘Killer AI’; Russia, India Cast Only ‘No’ Votes; China, Israel Abstain

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The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the U.N. logo in the foreground in New York.

NEW YORK — The United Nations adopted during a General Assembly meeting on Friday a resolution to promote international rulemaking on weapons that use artificial intelligence to select and kill human targets without human intervention.

This is the first General Assembly resolution related to lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS).

The United Nations will accelerate discussions on regulations of such weapons as there is growing concern that they will be fully put into practical use in war zones.

In the vote on the resolution submitted by Austria, 152 countries, including the Group of Seven industrialized countries such as Japan and the United States, voted in favor of it while four countries, including Russia and India, which have been actively promoting the military use of AI, opposed it. Eleven countries, including China, Israel and Iran, abstained from voting.

The autonomous weapons will process a vast amount of information in a short period of time, with the AI making decisions and initiating attacks. There are fears that conflicts could become even more serious due to AI decision-making that may cause misdirected strikes on civilians or due to the possibility of the AI going out of control.

It has been noted that battlefields in Ukraine and other areas have become de facto testing grounds for AI weapons, and the technology is therefore advancing dramatically, which could lead to full-fledged practical application.

The resolution confirmed that the U.N. Charter and international humanitarian law apply to lethal autonomous weapons systems and expressed concern about a situation in which such killer AI could lead to an arms race, conflicts and its proliferation to terrorists.

It called on U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres to have U.N. member states summarize their views on issues related to lethal autonomous weapons systems and to submit a report at the next session, which will begin in September 2024.

The United States and China, which hold advanced AI technology, have shared recognition of the need for regulations of the weapons, but Russia is opposed to such regulations.