International Conference and Symposium for a “World without Killer Robots”

 Adoption of the Tokyo Statement

AAR Japan and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots co-sponsored the “Asia Pacific Regional Conference on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS),” a two-day event held from February 19, 2019 (Tue) to 20 (Wed) at Rikkyo University in Toshima ward, Tokyo. LAWS, also known as killer robots, are artificial intelligence (AI) weapons systems that engage to destroy a target or kill without human intervention and/or control.
From abroad, 10 countries from the Asia Pacific region, 11 representatives of civil organizations, 2 experts from the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC), and 2 US members of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, participated in the campaign. From Japan, members from organizations including AAR Japan who also serve on the steering committee of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots participated in this campaign.

At the campaign, we further discussed issues associated with the ethics, morality, technology and security surrounding LAWS; and developed a strategy to put in place a “preventive ban treaty” in connection with military use, which was the primary goal of this campaign. On the last day, we adopted the “Tokyo Statement” and held a press conference at the Japan National Press Club (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo) on February 20. The statement reaffirmed the importance of science and technology, artificial intelligence, and the robot industry to promote peaceful use of technological developments. As well, the statement noted the urgency in developing a new treaty that calls for the prohibition of the development, manufacturing and use of LAWS in the Asia Pacific region before LAWS are put to practical use; and the need for further efforts at the national, regional and international levels.

For details regarding the Tokyo Statement, please see below.
 Statement: “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots” Asia Pacific Regional Conference Tokyo, Japan, February 19-20, 2019

 Members of the campaign announce the Tokyo Statement at the Japan National Press Club (from the right, Dr. Peter Asaro, Laura Nolan, Isabelle Jones, Komeito Party member Kiyohiko Toyama, Yoshiteru Horie (Secretary General, AAR Japan))
Yoshiteru Horie (Secretary General, AAR Japan) participating at the Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting on the Lethal Autonomous Weapons System (LAWS) (fourth from right, February 19, 2019)


Urgency for a Regulation

 On the evening of February 19th, Rikkyo University’s Graduate School of Social Design Studies and AAR Japan co-sponsored a symposium called “A World Without Killer Robots” to raise awareness surrounding the issues with killer robots.

At the beginning of the symposium, we played a video message from Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of Disarmament Affairs of the United Nations. Ms. Nakamitsu voiced her concerns that the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics has furthered the capabilities of autonomous systems, and that related technology has been applied to weapons and other military systems.
“The impact of such developments are far-reaching and we risk the starting of a new arms race. If autonomous technology is applied in wars, there may be a view that armed conflict can be started without the risk of military exhaustion such as death of soldiers and without civilian casualties, which could have an impact on the decision to make use of armed force,” she said.

At the symposium, we played a video message from Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of Disarmament Affairs of the United Nations.
Dr. Peter Asaro of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) explained the history of the “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots,” the current number of members of the campaign (53 countries and 93 organizations) and the role of international conferences. Further, Dr. Asaro explained that LAWS is a weapons platform that can select and engage targets without human judgement and, as the automation of weapons has given rise to various issues, the United Nations conferences have discussed the “definition” of LAWS, “automation” of weapons, the “need for new laws” to regulate LAWS, and “ethical issues” around LAWS.

Dr. Peter Asaro says that international conferences play a major role in the development of LAWS regulations.
Next, Ms. Laura Nolan (ICRAC) presented on her experience from having worked at Google's European head office. While working at Google, Ms. Nolan found that Google was involved in a project for the Pentagon (U.S.) and that there was a chance that technology developed by Google would be utilized on the battlefield. In protest, Ms. Nolan and many other employees resigned from Google. However, Ms. Nolan told that, even though many engineers were concerned about the use of their technology on the battlefield or the use of their technology as a tool to kill people, many were afraid of losing their job, adverse changes in treatment at the work place, or the risk of revocation of work visas, and faced difficulty in taking ethical action. In order to overcome these situations, Ms. Nolan explained that campaigns such as this would greatly encourage engineers to take ethical action and would like to see more support for movements like this.

Ms. Laura Nolan talks about her experience at Google.

Dr. Asaro and Ms. Nolan both emphasized that, "if pursuit of further enhancement was stopped, killer robots can be put to use immediately, so we are in urgent need for regulations."

 Yukie Osa, President of AAR Japan responding to participants’ questions at the symposium. From ICRAC, Ms. Laura Nolan (center) and Dr. Peter Asaro (right).
NGOs, such as the “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots,” that raise awareness regarding these issues are not opposed to the development of AI. However, while AI technology improves our lives, there is a risk of its application to weapons, and these NGOs advocate the need for regulations on this matter. Killer robots are said to revolutionize weapons, the third invention following gunpowder and nuclear weapons. We must continue to discuss regulations to prevent serious damage in the world caused by killer robots. AAR Japan will continue its activities on this matter in the future.

After graduating from university, Yuki worked for a private foundation and then proceeded to study peace studies at a graduate school in the United Kingdom. After working at an NGO in Pakistan, he joined AAR Japan in August 2012. Since then Yuki has led the Tajikistan project from the Tokyo office, became one of AAR Japan’s program coordinator in Zambia until August 2016 and is currently involved in the Fukushima project and killer robot campaigns at the Tokyo office. Yuki is a father of three children (Chiba Prefecture, Japan).

Japanese-English translation by Ms. Mami Usui
English editing by Mr. Allan Richardz

This article has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Japan's Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.