The German military has no intention of acquiring autonomous weapons, decried as “killer robots” by critics, the head of Germany’s fledgling cyber command said on Thursday.
Lieutenant General Ludwig Leinhos, who heads the new Cyber and Information Space Command set up in April 2017, made the comment during a discussion about artificial intelligence on the sidelines of the annual Munich Security Conference.
“We have a very clear position. We have no intention of procuring ... autonomous systems,” Leinhos said.
He said the German military needed to prepare to defend against such weapons if they were used by other countries, but had no plans to obtain such weapons itself.
Leinhos said a broader political and legal discussion was needed on the issue, which has been in the spotlight amid rapid gains in technology that could enable more autonomous use of drones and other weapons.
Mary Wareham, who coordinates the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, told the panel 22 countries had already agreed to support a ban on autonomous weapons, and her group was trying to raise more awareness about the issue.
She said it was important to ensure continued “human control” of weapons systems, and agreements were urgently needed given how quickly technology was evolving.
“This is a game-changing technology. This is something we can do something about,” Wareham said.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister and former secretary general of NATO, told the panel he strongly believed in preventing the production and use of such weapons, which he expects to create more instability.
“The use of AI and robots in warfare will drastically speed up combat,” Rasmussen said. “Soon, you may see swarms of robots attacking a country ... .The robots can be easily deployed, they don’t get tired, they don’t get bored.”
He said NATO needed to revamp its slow decision-making process to respond to the new, much faster-moving challenges.