The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has recently launched a new ethics subcommittee to study artificial intelligence (AI) in a bid to cope with a series of challenging ethical questions being posed by AI-powered systems worldwide.
“The ethics subcommittee on AI has been created under the KAIST Institute (KI) for Artificial Intelligence,” an official from the leading science and technology research university said.
The creation of the new committee comes at a time when issues surrounding ethics and risk assessment involving intelligent machine systems have emerged as a hot potato around the world amid the breakneck development of the technology. The issues include how people can stay in control of intelligent systems and be protected from unintended consequences
KAIST itself became the subject of controversy after it launched a joint research center with local defense company, Hanwha Systems, in February to co-develop AI technologies to be applied to weapons systems.
At the time, the university faced a boycott from more than 50 researchers from around the world who threatened to stop all contact and academic collaboration until KAIST assured them that the weapons systems it develops with the defense firm will have meaningful human control.
On April 9, the researchers called off their boycott after KAIST President Shin Sung-chul sent letters to them saying the university “does not have any intention of engaging in the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems and killer robots.”
A KAIST official said KI for AI and the university’s research group studying “Emotional Intelligence Technology to Infer Human Emotion and Carry on Dialogue Accordingly” will jointly hold an international workshop on AI ethics on June 21. He said the research group has been studying the ethical and social issues involving AI since the project’s launch in December 2016.
The boycott now cancelled, was organized by Professor Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales, who warned in a press statement that the race to build autonomous weapons had already begun. “We can see prototypes of autonomous weapons under development today by many nations including the US, China, Russia, and the UK,” said Walsh. “We are locked into an arms race that no one wants to happen. KAIST’s actions will only accelerate this arms race. We cannot tolerate this.”
They will be “weapons of terror, used by terrorists and rogue states against civilian populations. Unlike human soldiers, they will follow any orders however evil,” says Toby Walsh.
“These will be weapons of mass destruction. One programmer and a 3D printer can do what previously took an army of people. They will industrialise war, changing the speed and duration of how we can fight. They will be able to kill 24-7 and they will kill faster than humans can act to defend themselves.”
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Two more researchers from Japan and the United Kingdom have also been invited to the seminar and will speak about activities engaged in by Japanese AI researchers and activities of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) regarding AI ethics, respectively, a KAIST official noted.
Countries and companies have become more interested in investing in AI technology in an effort to develop new growth engines for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The development of the technology is raising expectations that AI-powered systems will transform lives for the better. But concerns involving innovative technology have also been raised.
Most recently, Google experienced controversy after some of its employees reportedly resigned, and almost 4,000 signed an internal petition to protest the firm’s controversial contract to do AI work for the Pentagon. Amid mounting pressure, the technological giant reportedly decided not to renew the contract that expires in March 2019.
KI established in 2006 and consists of six subsidiary institutes, BioCentury, Information Technology Convergence, Robotics, NanoCentury, Health Science and Technology and Artificial Intelligence; as well as three centers _ the Saudi Aramco-KAIST CO2 Management Center, I-Space and the Fourth Industrial Revolution Intelligence Center.