Science

Bausch wants to regulate the treatment of killer robots

Killer robots or deadly autonomous weapons are the result of the use of artificial intelligence by the military to kill. The Minister of Defense wants to quickly clarify the rules for their use.

Security and Defense

Mark SHLAMMES

Killer robots or deadly autonomous weapons are the result of the use of artificial intelligence by the military to kill. The Minister of Defense wants to quickly clarify the rules for their use.

LAWS. In English, this abbreviation stands for “lethal autonomous weapon systems”, which means “armesautonomous letales” in French. In short, they are colloquially referred to as killer robots.

To date, there is no mandatory regulatory framework for the handling of lethal autonomous weapons.

To date, there is no mandatory regulatory framework for the handling of lethal autonomous weapons.

Photo: Shutterstock

Killer robots were on the agenda of Friday’s meeting of the Council of Ministers. Defense Minister François Bauch (Déi Gréng) has proposed to his counterparts in government that an inter-ministerial working group be set up to study the use of LAWS both nationally and internationally at the United Nations level. For the minister, Luxembourg must take “a clear position with strict ethical and deontological rules”.

Working group

In addition to the Ministry of Defense, the ministries of digital technologies, research, justice, economy, as well as the state ministry should be represented in the working group. The university should participate in scientific oversight.

Given the international rules, François Bausch is aware that he will have to dig ditches. Back in 2014, at the initiative of France, this topic was first raised at the UN level and five years later resulted in a declaration containing eleven principles, including respect for international law, a balance between military and humanitarian goals, the issue of responsibility and the obligation to report to people, which then Luxembourg joined.

Since then, work has been stalled, and the defense secretary hopes his approach will create an “alliance of will” for a set of binding international rules to see the light of day; within the EU, the Netherlands and Austria have already expressed interest in cooperation.

(left to right) François Bausch, Deputy Prime Minister, Defense Minister; Georges Campill, Department of Defense; General Steve Tull, Army Chief of Staff

“In order to remain a single and reliable partner in terms of defense within NATO and the EU,” Luxembourg will increase the budget allocated to defense, which will allow it to implement several major projects.

The secretary of defense is confident in his ability to make a “valuable contribution” to treaties that have been preceded by controversial discussions, such as the 1997 anti-personnel mine ban convention. And he cites climate as an example: when he called the climate problem a future security problem, when he took office, people smiled at him. Today, climate is an integral part of NATO’s security concept.

No one should be allowed to interfere from outside.

François Bausch (Minister of Defense)

With his initiative, François Bausch wants to ensure that lethal autonomous weapons, which can be defined as the use of artificial intelligence for military purposes, take into account not only technological aspects and international law, but also ethical criteria and ethics. It is about minimizing the risks associated with artificial intelligence – ultimately it is about human lives and the question of whether people will be able to ensure control over the robot under any circumstances.

Comparison with autonomous driving

Knowing that a complete ban is not applicable, the minister believes that precautions are needed “to ensure that the man retains control.” Therefore, the working group should consider ways to prevent LAWS from falling into the wrong hands, turning into autonomy or being manipulated by third parties. “It’s like autonomous driving: no one should interfere from the outside. This is also about scale; The International Red Cross, for example, rejects use directed against people.”

However, killer robots certainly work autonomously. But they are programmed by humans. “We also have to ask ourselves with what intent and in what spirit are LAWS being developed,” Bausch points out at Luxemburger Wort and refers to the historical, geographical and social origins of the programmers. “Those who have been marked by a dictatorship have different ethical criteria than those who come from a democratic regime. Therefore, the algorithm remains a black box,” warns the minister.

With a wingspan of 72 meters and a weight of 2.4 tons, Skydweller can carry up to 400 kg of cargo.

With a wingspan of 72 meters and a weight of 2.4 tons, Skydweller can carry up to 400 kg of cargo.

Photo: Skydweller Aero Inc.

The Secretary of Defense is also aware that time is running out and wants to present concrete results next summer. On the one hand, he wants to make Luxembourg an IT site with strict rules – key word: data protection. Recently, the Luxembourg army has also been more dedicated to the high-tech sector with cyber security, the acquisition of Integrator reconnaissance drones and participation in the Skydweller (solar unmanned aerial vehicle) project.

The role of the arms industry

On the other hand, he warns of a rapidly changing reality: without limiting safeguards, the military industry will go as far as it can, “they have no doubts.”

React Faster

The NATO Rapid Reaction Force is to be increased from 40,000 to 300,000 soldiers. This was decided at the summit in Madrid at the end of June. François Bausch emphasizes that the main task in the event of an emergency is, first of all, to optimize the reaction speed of the troops. This also applies to the armed forces of Luxembourg.

“For Luxembourg, the challenge is also to create a bilateral battalion in cooperation with Belgium; the two reconnaissance companies that the Grand Duchy is already providing today should also be integrated into it,” the Minister of Defense answers a question from CSV MP Claude Wieseler. “Special attention will be paid to training, for example, more regular participation in multinational maneuvers, which will affect costs,” said the Minister of Greens.

He also wants to get the public’s attention. Because the threat posed by killer robots is no less problematic than the nuclear threat, which is regularly talked about these days in the context of the war in Ukraine. With relatively limited funds, it is possible to organize a huge potential for damage, points out François Bausch, referring to a 2021 UN report that killer drones were used in the Libyan civil war.

This article first appeared on wort.lu/de.

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