Photo Credit: Alexander Bitar

13th November 2023

New Exhibition Explores Autonomous Weapons in the Context of Digital Dehumanisation and Automated Harm

  • Stopping Killer Robots
  • Disarmament

Coinciding with the 2023 UN General Assembly First Committee, which addresses disarmament and international security, a new exhibition "Automated by Design" was launched by Stop Killer Robots, SGI and Amnesty International.

Identity 2.0, a creative studio working at the intersection of digital rights, technology and identity, was commissioned to create a moving, accessible and engaging exhibition that introduces and explains autonomous weapons to participants; situates autonomous weapons within the wider issues of digital dehumanisation and automated harm; and supports Stop Killer Robots in their mission to develop new international law on autonomy in weapons systems.

Identity 2.0 speaking at the launch of "Automated by Design." | Photo Credit: Alexander Bitar

Held on 13 October 2023 near the UN Headquarters, the exhibition launch event was attended by approximately 62 individuals, including diplomats, UN officials and members of civil society. Participants had an opportunity to experience the interactive exhibition, including a timeline that shows the history behind autonomous weapons; a video that explains how technology may not necessarily improve human decisions; an interactive game using the binary method; and a digital tool that explains how facial recognition technology works.

During the event, representatives of the partner organizations took the floor to share brief remarks. Tomohiko Aishima of SGI stated, “At the heart of the issue of autonomous weapons is the radical negation of others—of their humanity and of their equal right to happiness and life. As a global association of Buddhists committed to upholding the ultimate respect for the life of oneself and others, as well as the conviction in the human capacity to foster sustaining peace, we feel compelled to work on this urgent issue. With the rapid pace of change in emerging technologies and their serious implications for humanity’s future, it is important that we all show up and make a strong stance against autonomous weapon systems.”

Tomohiko Aishima of SGI speaking at the launch of "Automated by Design." | Photo Credit: Alexander Bitar

The timing of the launch event was significant, as Austria tabled the first-ever resolution on autonomous weapons systems at the UN General Assembly (resolution draft number A/C.1/78/L.56). This resolution will mandate the UN Secretary-General to seek the views of all states and stakeholders, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, scientific communities, industry and civil society, when addressing the legal, ethical, humanitarian and security risks associated with autonomous weapons systems, and to submit a substantive report on the way forward.

As Member States at the UN work to make progress regarding the concerns about autonomous weapons systems, it is equally important that the general public be informed of the importance and urgency of the issue. To accomplish this, “we look forward to partnering with our local member organizations and other institutions to bring this exhibition to various countries and regions in the near future,” said Isabelle Jones, the Campaign Outreach Manager of Stop Killer Robots.