Mosher: China Calls for Ban on Killer Robots (While Developing Its Own)

Concern has grown over the threat posed by weapons that rely on machine intelligence in deciding what to kill
AFP CARL COURT

China, which is working hard to develop AI-powered killing machines, has suddenly called for them to be banned.

IHS Jane’s 360 reports that the People’s Republic of China has called on nations “to negotiate and conclude a succinct protocol to ban the use of fully autonomous weapon systems.”

China is the first permanent member of the UN Security Council to call for a ban on “lethal autonomous weapons systems” (LAWS). The Chinese proposal came on the final day of a Group of Government Experts (GGE) meeting on LAWS held at the UN office in Geneva from April 9-13.

The timing of China’s surprising proposal has raised eyebrows. There is a very serious battle underway between the U.S. and China over artificial intelligence (AI) platforms that can function autonomously. America is working hard on AI, but China may have closed the gap, according to experts.

Bob Maginnes, author of Future War and Pentagon insider, is among those who believe that China is now leading the race to develop killing platforms. Even more ominously, he suggests that China, with its general disregard for human life, will not place a human in the decision chain for killing platforms.

A Chinese “lethal autonomous weapons system,” in other words, will be a true Terminator – as in the movie by the same name – programmed to hunt and kill humans.

If Maginnes is correct, this would explain why China is suddenly eager to ban such weapons systems. Such a ban would lock in China’s existing advantage by preventing nations which respect the rule of law, such as the United States, from developing such weapons.

China, on the other hand, treats international laws and treaties as disposable commodities. “Waste paper,” scoffed Xi Jinping when the International Tribunal at the Hague ruled against China’s illegitimate claims in the South China Sea.

Odds are that China, after signing an agreement to ban killing machines, would nevertheless continue its efforts to develop and deploy such weapons in secret.

The possession of battalions of such Terminators, especially in the absence of U.S. counterparts, would put it that much closer to its goal of global hegemony.

Steven W. Mosher is the author of Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order.

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