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READERS MAY HAVE seen last month there was a lot of media coverage of a letter on autonomous weapons sent to the United Nations Conference on Conventional Weapons (CCW) from 116 founders of robotics and artificial intelligence companies in 26 countries. This follows letters in previous years from scientists, engineers, faith leaders and others.

Although there is no agreed definition of an autonomous weapon (aka killer robot), the concept is basically a weapon that can select a target and fire on that target without any human intervention. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots has called for a pre-emptive ban on such weapons. The Campaign is not opposed to the use of robots or artificial intelligence by militaries. It is not even opposed to autonomy in the military, but it does believe that there is a line that should not be crossed and that all use of force must involve meaningful human control.

Mines Action Canada, as a co-founder of the Campaign, believes there is one key group that is missing from those raising their voices. We believe that many military personnel, both those currently serving and retired, also share our concerns. From our outreach activities we know military personnel do not unanimously support this use of technology, nor these developments in weaponry.

As we said at the CCW in April 2015, "grimes during the week, we have felt that some have underestimated the skills, knowledge, intelligence, training, experience, humanity and morality that men and women in uniform combine with situational awareness and IHL to make decisions during conflict. We work closely with roboticists, engineers, and technical experts and despite their expertise and the high quality of their work, we do not believe an algorithm could replicate this complex decision making process."

Without a platform to share those concerns governments may assume silence is consent of support, so we have created a letter for military personnel, both current or retired, to sign on to also to support a pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapon systems. The letter was drafted by a former officer in the Canadian military. To date it has been signed by military personnel from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Norway and Sri Lanka. I trust the letter is self-explanatory, but if you would like more information go to

Paul Hannon

Executive Director, Mines Action Canada

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Title Annotation:POSTED IN
Author:Hannon, Paul
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Date:Oct 1, 2017
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