2 min readKAIST, Hanhwa Systems collaborate to build AI weapons

Despite the repeated warnings from the AI community of the risk behind autonomous weapons, KAIST, a state-run research university in South Korea has teamed up with the country’s leading arms manufacturer, Hanhwa Systems. According to this report from Korea Times, the collaboration is aimed at co-developing “artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to be applied to military weapons, joining the global competition to develop autonomous arms”. Additionally, the article states, “researchers from the university and Hanhwa will carry out various studies into how technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be utilized on future battlefields”.

Some important highlights

  • Some weapons currently being developed by the two organizations include AI-based missile that can control its speed and altitude, as well as detect an enemy radar fence real time, AI-equipped and unmanned submarines, and armed quadcopters.
  • These are the four priorities of the research institute, in order of importance: to develop an AI-based command system, an AI algorithm for the unmanned submarine, an AI-based aviation training system, and an AI-based object-tracking technique.
  • Hanhwa Systems and KAIST aims to complete all these developments by the end of the year.

The Context

South Korea is just one of a number of countries that are already developing AI-based weapons systems. The United States has been testing experimental AI which are typically used in drones, ground robots, and naval ships. Russia, on the other hand, is said to be developing unmanned aerial vehicles. There remains a question whether AI weapons is necessary, given the impending large scale change we are about to experience as one civilization due to the creation of a generalized intelligence.

Both Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk agree that AI weapons could endanger our very existence. Meanwhile, in 2015, AI researchers who attended the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence wrote an open letter to the United Nations calling for a ban on the development of AI weapons which do not have meaningful human control. This letter was supported by 137 robotics and AI companies. Just last year in November,  the United Nations began formal discussions to this end. The Group of Governmental Experts to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons will convene in Geneva this April 2018.

Why it matters

The collaboration between Hanhwa Systems and KAIST raises alarm in the AI community because it means that even before a meaningful mechanism for the ban on autonomous weapons can be made, new generation of AI weapons will already be available to consumers.

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