Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Technically leading, ethically backward

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What weapons like the ones in the Elbit video clip can do is also being worked on in this country: in basic research at Swiss universities.

Marguerite Meyer and Ariane Luthi

The use of artificial intelligence in military applications is being developed in Swiss universities. However, these often keep a low profile about the use of their technologies. The EPFL in Lausanne provides a particularly striking example: neither the long-standing director of NCCR Robotics, Dario Floreano, nor the head of NTN Robotics, which is financed with public money, Aude Billard, want to comment. The leading researchers explain that they do not know to what extent technologies such as drone swarms are used militarily.

Military cooperation must be approved at EPFL and researchers must comply with the federal government’s so-called dual-use guidelines. But these are outdated for the latest technologies, says Marcello Ienca. He researches the ethics of intelligent systems in Lausanne. “In the 2020s, it is no longer possible to draw a clear line between civil and military technologies,” he says. “Export controls hardly work with AI because they only focus on developed applications and not on the algorithms required for them. You can pass on software that will then be used elsewhere for weapon systems.”

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