AI warfare is rapidly becoming a global threat and needs urgent control and regulation, according to UK AI expert Stuart Russell.

The University of California Professor is to warn in the BBC’s Reith Lectures that there should be an immediate ban on the use of machines that hunt and kill humans. He told the Financial Times in a recent interview that governments and military commanders did not understand the objections to AI warfare he has been making for the past ten years.

“Put very simply, we do not sell nuclear weapons to Tesco – and with these weapons it will be exactly like that,” he told the paper. But governments and companies are still developing and deploying such weapons.

Global insecurity

At the beginning of November German academics wrote to the government to ban the use of such weapons. The letter, published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, said that the world was on the  brink of an international AI arms race.

“The unregulated use of these weapon systems would pose a serious threats to international law, as well as to human rights and human dignity,” the letter said. It is published in translation on the website Lethal AWS. “The development of these systems will likely cause an arms race and lead to regional and global insecurity.”

Human rights

In fact, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, called in September for a moratorium on artificial intelligence systems that could put human rights at risk. It came as her office released a report on the right to privacy in the digital age.

The report calls on countries to ban AI that fails to comply with international human rights laws. In addition, it called for a moratorium on the use of surveillance technologies that use AI in public places – such as facial recognition systems.

“We cannot afford to continue playing catch-up regarding AI — allowing its use with limited or no boundaries or oversight, and dealing with the almost inevitable human rights consequences after the fact,” Bachelet said. And she called for immediate action to put “human rights guardrails on the use of AI.”