Around the Web

Artificial Intelligence experts call for boycott of South Korea university over ‘killer robots’

‘If developed, autonomous weapons... will permit war to be fought faster and at a scale greater than ever before.’

Play

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology is a world-renowned research university, which is now known most famously for its humanoid robot HUBO (video below), which carried the torch during the relay for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Oh yes, it also produced the more menacing and much larger FX2 robot (video above), which can carry a human.

Play

As robots go, they’re both very impressive and formidable if you even begin to think of the ways they can be used. You can see more of what they can already do here.

So when KAIST announced in February that it was launching a joint research facility in partnership with Hanwha Systems, which happens to be one of South Korea’s largest weapons manufacturers, this raised alarms across the world and sparked concerns over possible “killer robots”. The Korean Times reported that the goal of the research centre is to “develop artificial intelligence technologies to be applied to military weapons” that would “search for and eliminate targets without human control.”

In response, more than 50 leading artificial intelligence and robotics researchers led by Professor Toby Walsh from the University of South Wales have signed an open letter declaring they will boycott the South Korean university and the defence manufacturers over this partnership. The researchers said they would boycott all collaborations of any kind with the university over fears that it “looks to accelerate the arms race to develop (autonomous) weapons”. Or at least until the President of KAIST provides them assurance that they will not develop autonomous weapons lacking “meaningful human control.”

Confused about what autonomous weapons mean exactly? Think Terminator.

“If developed, autonomous weapons will be the third revolution in warfare. They will permit war to be fought faster and at a scale greater than ever before. They have the potential to be weapons of terror...This Pandora’s box will be hard to close if it is opened,” said the letter (full text here).

KAIST’s president, Sung-Chul Shin, however, said he was saddened to hear of the boycott. According to The Guardian, he said in a statement, “I would like to reaffirm that KAIST does not have any intention to engage in development of lethal autonomous weapons systems and killer robots.” He added, “As an academic institution, we value human rights and ethical standards to a very high degree. KAIST will not conduct any research activities counter to human dignity including autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control.”

Meanwhile, here’s one more reminder of what that people-carrying robot can do.

Play
Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What are racers made of?

Grit, strength and oodles of fearlessness.

Sportspersons are known for their superhuman discipline, single-minded determination and the will to overcome all obstacles. Biographies, films and documentaries have brought to the fore the behind-the-scenes reality of the sporting life. Being up at the crack of dawn, training without distraction, facing injuries with a brave face and recovering to fight for victory are scenes commonly associated with sportspersons.

Racers are no different. Behind their daredevilry lies the same history of dedication and discipline. Cornering on a sports bike or revving up sand dunes requires the utmost physical endurance, and racers invest heavily in it. It helps stave off fatigue and maintain alertness and reaction time. It also helps them get the most out of their racecraft - the entirety of a racer’s skill set, to which years of training are dedicated.

Racecraft begins with something as ‘simple’ as sitting on a racing bike; the correct stance is the key to control and manoeuvre the bike. Riding on a track – tarmac or dirt is a great deal different from riding on the streets. A momentary lapse of concentration can throw the rider into a career ending crash.

Physical skill and endurance apart, racers approach a race with the same analytical rigour as a student appearing in an exam. They conduct an extensive study of not just the track, but also everything around it - trees, marshal posts, tyre marks etc. It’s these reference points that help the racer make braking or turning decisions in the frenzy of a high-stakes competition.

The inevitability of a crash is a reality every racer lives with, and seeks to internalise this during their training. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, racers are trained to keep their eyes open to help the brain make crucial decisions to avoid collision with other racers or objects on the track. Racers that meet with accidents can be seen sliding across the track with their heads held up, in a bid to minimise injuries to the head.

But racecraft is, of course, only half the story. Racing as a profession continues to confound many, and racers have been traditionally misunderstood. Why would anyone want to pour their blood, sweat and tears into something so risky? Where do racers get the fearlessness to do laps at mind boggling speed or hurtle down a hill unassisted? What about the impact of high speeds on the body day after day, or the monotony of it all? Most importantly, why do racers race? The video below explores the question.

Play


The video features racing champions from the stable of TVS Racing, the racing arm of TVS Motor Company, which recently completed 35 years of competitive racing in India. TVS Racing has competed in international rallies and races across some of the toughest terrains - Dakar, Desert Storm, India Baja, Merzouga Rally - and in innumerable national championships. Its design and engineering inputs over the years have also influenced TVS Motors’ fleet in India. You can read more about TVS Racing here.

This article has been produced by Scroll Brand Studio on behalf of TVS Racing and not by the Scroll editorial team.