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Project Information / Information sur le projet
Possible technologies involved / Technologies possibles impliquées: VR, robotics
Project Type / Type de projet : General
Expected prototype budget / Budget prévu pour le prototype: Not available
Expected project cost / Coût prévu du projet cost: $50
Client Information / Information sur le client
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Project background / Contexte du projet
Autonomous Weapons or  “killer robots” are systems that detect and apply force to a target based on the processing of data from sensor inputs. The specific object to be attacked, and the exact time and place of the attack, are determined by sensor processing, instead of an immediate human command. This means the human operator does not determine specifically where, when or against what force is applied. 

By delegating the decision to fire to an algorithm, autonomous weapons raise several moral and ethical concerns. There are security concerns such as lowering the threshold for conflict, an arms race and possibilities for spoofing and hacking. Legal experts believe there is no way that autonomous weapons would be able to comply with international humanitarian law and should something go wrong it would be difficult or impossible to hold anyone accountable for violations of international humanitarian law committed by an autonomous weapon. Concerns about bias in AI are multiplied putting people of colour, gender non-conforming people and persons with disabilities at greater risk. 

The United Nations Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) has been discussing autonomous weapons for the past nine years. CCW talks have explored the issue in depth but due to blocking from some member states, there has been little progress towards concrete action. The majority of states agree that new international instruments are needed to deal with the threat posed by autonomous weapons, but a small number of states are blocking progress. This fall the UN General Assembly will attempt to adopt its first resolution on the topic. 

Stop Killer Robots Campaign has been calling for new international law for ten years and those calls have been echoed by industry, AI experts, academics, and faith communities. Mines Action Canada, Stop Killer Robots and our allies in the tech community see much potential for beneficial civilian applications of artificial intelligence but don't want the development of those applications undermined by un-regulated military use in weapons. There are moral, ethical, and technological lines that should not be crossed.

The international community is starting to look at opportunities to move the issue forward outside of the CCW with the United Nations General Assembly or an outside process being leading options. Two Canadian Ministers of Foreign Affairs had instructions to support international efforts to prohibit autonomous weapons in their mandate letters but Canadian leadership has been lacking on this file.

Decision makers need to be courageous and start negotiations on autonomous weapons systems before they are ever used.

The international conversation about autonomous weapons is moving forward but too many decision makers still see the issue as theoretical. Politicians and diplomats alike talk in the abstract without realizing that such a revolution in warfare would have a direct impact on individuals. To reach our goals of prohibiting autonomous weapons systems, we need decision makers to realize that delaying has real humanitarian consequences.

To help bridge the gap between policy and practice, Mines Action Canada has a project for you to tackle:

Your task is to use virtual reality to build a custom environment that user can walk through in one minute illustrating a city living under autonomous weapons for the past year to take the issue from the abstract to reality for decision makers. The environment should be designed to keep the humans safe from the unseen robots, highlighting ethical concerns about autonomous weapons. In conflict, civilians often adapt their cities to make things safer for themselves so use the VR technology to show how you think humans would change a city to respond to the threat posed by autonomous weapons. There is no need to show the robots or other people, just have the built environment with low tech solutions to educate people and protect which you think the average citizen would create. 

Past attempts / Tentatives précédentes
A similar project was worked on in Winter 2023, you can use them for inspiration.

Designing for a Weapons Ban
Aug 29 2023

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