20:23 GMT +314 August 2018
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    South Korean University Draws Boycott From AI Experts Over 'Killer Robots'

    CC BY-SA 2.0 / Daniel Juřena / Terminator
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    Dozens of AI specialists from across the globe have called for a boycott against Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) over its new research center that is collaborating with one of South Korea’s largest weapons manufacturers.

    International scientists have expressed concern that the major South Korean university's lab partnering with the country's leading defense company Hanwha Systems is aimed at "accelerating the arms race" to develop autonomous weapons.

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    More than 50 AI academics from 29 countries signed an open letter calling for a boycott of KAIST in fear that the activities of the Research Center for the Convergence of National Defense and Artificial Intelligence could lead to "killer robots". The researchers announced that they temporarily refuse to collaborate with the university or host visitors from KAIST.

    "We therefore publicly declare that we will boycott all collaborations with any part of KAIST until such time as the President of KAIST provides assurances, which we have sought but not received, that the Center will not develop autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control," the boycotters said in the letter.

    The letter comes ahead of a United Nations meeting in Geneva next week on autonomous weapons, and more than two dozen countries have already urged to prohibit killer robots. The use of AI in global militaries has sparked fears that autonomous weapons may not be able to accurately distinguish friend from foe.

    Meanwhile, the university officials insist the research is aimed at improving existing defense systems.

    "As an academic institution, we value human rights and ethical standards to a very high degree," KAIST's president, Sung-Chul Shin, said in a statement, adding that he was saddened to hear of the boycott. "I reaffirm once again that KAIST will not conduct any research activities counter to human dignity including autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control."    

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    AI, robots, boycott, South Korea
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