U.N. General Assembly to Vote on Killer Robot Resolution; ‘LAWS’ could be as revolutionary as gunpowder, N-weapons

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A U.N. General assembly meeting in mid-September

NEW YORK — The use of artificial intelligence in weapons systems that automatically set attack targets and carry out deadly strikes with no direct human control will be the subject of a resolution that a plenary session of the U.N. General Assembly is to vote on in December, according to U.N. diplomatic sources.

The resolution is to raise concerns about the use of AI weapons for military purposes and ask for efforts to create international rules in this regard.

Austria drafted the resolution, and about 30 nations, including Germany and Switzerland, jointly proposed it.

The resolution is likely to be adopted at the First Committee of the General Assembly, which is in charge of disarmament, and then submitted to a plenary session.

Lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) are also referred to as killer robots. They can process huge amounts of information in a short period of time and conduct attacks based on the judgment of AI. Such technology has the potential to radically change the nature of warfare — to the extent that is being called a “third military revolution,” following the advents of gunpowder and nuclear weapons.

Currently, there is no treaty regulating LAWS. As Russia continues its aggression in Ukraine, the smaller nation has become a “testing site” for the lethal technology.

The resolution expresses concerns that AI weapons could cause serious issues from humanitarian, ethical and other perspectives, pointing out a possibility of negative impacts on global security, such as triggering an arms race and the proliferation of such weapons to non-state actors.

The resolution also specifies a schedule to produce a report on the views of each member state on the regulation of LAWS to a General Assembly meeting to start in September next year.

In addition to Russia, it is said that countries such as the United States and China are developing lethal autonomous weapons systems.

Opinions range from economically developing countries seeking a total ban on such weapons to Russia claiming there is no need for regulations in the form of a treaty.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres is calling for the establishment of a new international organ to govern AI. The discussions about LAWS are likely to intensify in the United Nations.