A bunch of non-defense and non-foreign policy folks—and so experts on both—don’t think we should be moving to defend ourselves against our enemies.  Such actions might…provoke…them.

Dozens of scientists, health care professionals and academics have written a letter to the UN calling for an international ban of autonomous killer robots, saying recent advances in artificial intelligence “have brought us to the brink of a new arms race in lethal autonomous weapons.”

These tools might also fall into the hands of terrorists and despots.

Such a withdrawal or failure to engage in the first place, though, would amount to unilateral disarmament in the face of our enemies: an agreement—done at the UN or done between nations—cannot be expected to be honored by those who wish us ill.  It’s necessary only to see the years-long Russian violation of the intermediate-range nuclear missile treaty in Europe and its partition and occupation of parts of Georgia and Ukraine.  It’s necessary only to see the People’s Republic of China’s seizure of the South China Sea and the islands therein—the territory of other nations around the Sea, albeit disputed among those nations—and the militarization of those occupied islands.

It’s necessary only to see the continued nuclear weapons arming of northern Korea, despite past agreements to stop.  It’s necessary only to see the continued drive toward nuclear weapons development in Iran, despite past agreements not to.

Our enemies will—and are—racing to development “killer robots” regardless of any piously agreed treaties to not.  Many of these enemies—Iran, for instance, and northern Korea—would be happy to sell the weapons to terrorists and despots to facilitate their ability to do us harm.

We should be leading in this development and deployment not hiding from it.  That’s the only way to maximize our ability to control their use: from understanding how to counter them to minimizing through deterrence the likelihood of our enemies using them or selling them on.  That’s the only way to maximize our ability to defend ourselves.

Aside from all of that, an arms race is itself a useful tool in facing down our adversaries.  It’s necessary only to recall the space-based missile defense race, the economic toll that took on the Soviet Union, and the outcome of that price exaction.

At best, these folks are naïve.

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