| OSLO, March 11
OSLO, March 11 The ethics watchdog for Norway's
$830-billion sovereign wealth fund is taking the unusual step of
warning companies against developing the next generation of
weapons - robots that do not require human intervention to kill.
The world's largest sovereign wealth fund, which invests the
income from Norway's oil industry, is so big that it owns 1.3
percent of the world's listed company equity. It is required by
law to restrict investments in companies on ethical grounds.
It is not allowed to invest in companies that make
anti-personnel mines or nuclear weapons. And the head of its
independent ethics panel, Johan H. Andresen, said it would now
also be on the lookout for firms involved in development of
autonomous weapons, even though the technology is not available
Autonomous weapons select and fire on targets without human
intervention. Although their development is in infancy, some
robotics and artificial intelligence researchers suggest it
could be just a matter of years before they can be used.
"This is a statement of fair warning, a heads-up", Andresen
"If you think about developing technology for recognising
cancer, that is fine. But if you are adapting it to track down a
certain type of individual in a certain environment, and
cooperating with others to make an autonomous weapon out of it,
don't be surprised if we take a look at you."
No companies were under examination, said Andresen, as there
were none to look at, yet.
The Council on Ethics is an independent body that makes
recommendations on companies that may be in breach of the fund's
ethical guidelines. Usually, there has to be a suspicion of a
breach for the council to examine it.
It is looking at corruption in the defence, telecoms and
energy industries, at workers' rights in construction, textiles
and electronics manufacturing and, beginning this year, at
companies responsible for excessive climate change
Physicist Stephen Hawking, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak were among signatories
to a letter penned by artificial intelligence and robotics
researchers last July calling for a ban on autonomous weapons.
"Artificial intelligence technology has reached a point
where the deployment of such systems is - practically if not
legally - feasible within years, not decades," said the letter.
In the United States, the Pentagon said in December it would
request $12 billion to $15 billion for early work on new
technologies, including autonomous weapons.
(Editing by Peter Graff)