The rise of computing power during the latter half of the twentieth century exponentially increased the ability of technologies based on an artificial intelligence (AI) to carry out varying degrees of autonomous action. Rapid and ongoing advancements in AI have the potential to greatly increase the breadth of tasks that can be assigned to robots. While this can be significantly beneficial for operations in environments that are hazardous for human health and safety, there is also a wide range of challenges and potential security implications.
As the primary subject of the international debate on AI and robotics, the potential creation of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) is currently being discussed within the ambit of the United Nations’ Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The objective of its 2014 and 2015 Meetings of Experts has been to advance understanding of the legal, ethical, societal, and operational implications of LAWS within the international community.
At the same time, AI and robotics also have applications in social and civil settings, particularly as technological interconnectivity increases. Robust systems of this kind can streamline everyday activities, resulting in time- and cost-saving benefits for both individuals and organizations. However, not only would the data collection central to its operation be a valuable target for criminal organisations, the removal of the human control aspect creates legal difficulties, particularly in areas such as the attribution of responsibility. These concerns are amplified where an AI system is capable of evolving beyond its original program in order to act in a manner that may be considered more efficient.
In order to strike a balance between the technological advances in AI and robotics and the need to appropriately consider and address the full spectrum of potential security implications of these technologies, UNICRI seeks to:
Within this context, UNICRI is also working to enhance awareness of current technological capabilities and how AI and robotics might be used by terrorist organisations or non-state actors as delivery systems for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) materials. UNICRI will rely on its expertise in the field of CBRN risk mitigation in order to identify what these developments might mean for various international legal instruments related to CBRN risk mitigation, such as United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention, and analyse what this means for the development of such technologies.