Autonomous weapons are in use in some countries and an Oregon man fears they will fall into the hands of the police
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Pendleton man filed a petition with the Oregon Secretary of State this week to stop combat robots from ever being used in the state. He calls it the Anti-Combat Robot Act.
Tikhon Andrew Gilson, 58, told KOIN 6 News he was very concerned about the use of autonomous robots in warfare. He said his worries started when he heard about a campaign to stop killer robots. The coalition that launched the campaign strives to ensure human control over the use of force. He calls for a new international law on the autonomy of weapon systems.
While Gilson said he knew the use of autonomous weapons in the state of Oregon could be years or even decades away, he wanted to act preemptively.
“In the modern and postmodern era, things go from testing and development to production pretty quickly. So I wanted to stay one step ahead,” he said.
Gilson’s petition, which was filed on Monday, proposes an amendment to the Oregon State Constitution that would ban the use of combat robots. His fear is that once the US military starts using autonomous robots or robots with artificial intelligence for warfare, it’s only a matter of time before US police forces Oregon did start to use them as well.
According to the filed petition, Gilson believes robots used in warfare will be able to “kill and maim without limit.”
He said even the toughest of human enforcers have empathy, conscience and repentance, things he thinks a robot could never have.
The discussion about autonomous militarized robots is ongoing among the leaders of countries around the world. According to United Nations weapons experts and legal experts, lethal autonomous weapons systems were used in March 2020 in Libya to hunt down retreating soldiers loyal to Khalifa Hifter, the Libyan military officer.
A July 2021 article by The Washington Post said 30 countries supported enacting a total ban on lethal autonomous weapons, but the United States said concerns were overblown. The article also said that the Russian government does not believe the weapons cannot be banned because they do not yet exist.
KOIN 6 News reached out to Oregon Senate Speaker Peter Courtney and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek to ask if lawmakers had considered legislation regarding autonomous weapons or combat robots this last years. Neither Courtney nor Kotek responded by the deadline.
Gilson said he was not opposed to all robots. In fact, he thinks artificial intelligence can be used positively for things like agriculture and ambulances.
He said part of his concern about robots being used in warfare stems from the fact that he is a Quaker. He said Quakers believe in peaceful, non-violent social change and that expanding the use of robots in warfare would be a pathway to more violence.
“People, if they have enough money, could get their hands on executor bots and do a lot of harm with them,” he said.
The Oregon secretary of state said an initiative petition allows anyone to propose new laws, change existing laws, or change the constitution. Petitioners are encouraged to seek legal advice when drafting the text of a bill, but anyone can submit their ideas. They need to collect 1,000 sponsorship signatures to begin the process of writing the ballot title.
Gilson told KOIN 6 News he plans to call the secretary of state’s office on Thursday to find out more about the steps he needs to take to collect signatures.