County supervisor worried about killer robots

A mock ‘killer robot’ is pictured in London in 2013 during the launch of the Campaign to stop Killer Robots, which calls for the ban of lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Like something out of a sci-fi movie, a San Mateo County supervisor wants to restrict the creation of “killer robots.”

Supervisor David Canepa, who represents the northern part of the county including Daly City, said he has been working on a resolution the supervisors would pass that asks Congress or the United Nations to ban or restrict the creation of autonomous robots for warfare.

Currently the United States has a policy where there has to be someone in control of the drone or guided missile or any other sort of technology used in warfare. He’s worried about devices that operate on their own using artificial intelligence or AI.

While the technology may be intended to save lives, because the AI keeps learning, human lives may end up being at risk, especially if the technology is hacked by terrorists. Even worse, what happens when hostile forces get their own autonomous robots?

“What if their software is compromised? And these bots turn against us? We’ve seen (hacks) with Equifax. It’s feasible,” Canepa said.

Inspired by Elon Musk

He said AI ought to be treated like chemical warfare or land mines, where it’s agreed upon by the UN that countries not use these forms of weaponry.
“No robot or machine should be able to make life-or-death decisions on its own,” Canepa said.

Canepa said he got the idea for this resolution after hearing Tesla founder Elon Musk talk about AI. Canepa then went to work, researching AI. He also teamed up with Stuart Russell, a UC-Berkeley computer science professor who is a leading AI researcher. Russell was one of 3,462 AI researchers to sign a letter calling for a ban on autonomous weapons. The letter was also signed by an additional 18,909 people, including Musk, Stephen Hawking and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

A Silicon Valley issue

Canepa said he’s bringing the issue to the Board of Supervisors since AI technology and the ability for autonomous weapons are being created on the Peninsula.
“We are in the heart of Silicon Valley,” Canepa said. “I could see in Yolo County, where perhaps this type of technology isn’t being invented (and there is) a lack of interest in this, but we are right here.”

Canepa hopes with the issue being raised in San Mateo County, other nearby counties, like San Francisco, look at asking for a ban on killer robots and it makes its way to Congress.