PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A Pendleton man filed a petition with the Oregon Secretary of State this week to prevent combat robots from ever being used in the state. He calls it the Anti-Combat Robot Act.
Fifty-eight-year-old Tikhon Andrew Gilson told KOIN 6 News he’s very concerned about autonomous robots being used for warfare. He said his concerns began when he learned about a campaign to stop killer robots. The coalition that started the campaign is working to ensure human control in the use of force. It’s calling for new international law on autonomy in weapons systems.
While Gilson said he knows autonomous weapon use in the state of Oregon might be years or even decades away, he wanted to take action preemptively.
“In the modern and postmodern age, things go from testing and development into production pretty rapidly. So I wanted to stay ahead of it,” he said.
Gilson’s petition, which was filed Monday, is proposing an amendment to the Oregon State Constitution that would ban the use of combat robots. His fear is that once the U.S. military begins using autonomous robots or robots with artificial intelligence for warfare, it’s only a matter of time before Oregon police forces begin using them as well.
According to the petition filed, Gilson believes robots used in warfare will be able to “kill and maim without limit.”
He said even the harshest of human enforcers has empathy, conscience and repentance, things he thinks a robot could never have.
The discussion of autonomous militarized robots is ongoing among leaders of countries around the world. According to United Nations weapons 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.
An article published in July 2021 by the Washington Post said 30 countries supported enacting a total ban on lethal autonomous weapons, but the U.S. said concerns are overblown. The article also said Russia’s government doesn’t think the weapons can be banned because they don’t exist yet.
KOIN 6 News contacted Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek to ask if lawmakers had considered any legislation regarding autonomous weapons or combat robots in recent years. Neither Courtney nor Kotek responded before the deadline.
Gilson said he’s not opposed to all robots. In fact, he thinks artificial intelligence can be used positively for things like agriculture and in ambulances.
He said part of his concern about robots being used for warfare comes from the fact that he’s a Quaker. He said Quakers believe in peaceful, nonviolent social change and that extending the use of robots in warfare would be an avenue to more violence.
“People, if they have enough money, could get ahold of enforcer robots and do a lot of evil with them,” he said.
The Oregon Secretary of State says an initiative petition allows anyone to propose new laws, change existing laws or amend the constitution. Petitioners are encouraged to seek legal guidance when writing the text of a proposed law, but anyone can submit their ideas. They must gather 1,000 sponsorship signatures to begin the ballot title drafting process.
Gilson told KOIN 6 News he planned to call the Secretary of State’s Office Thursday to learn more about the steps he needs to take to gather signatures.
Editor’s note: The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office announced on Jan. 24, 2022 that Gilson had withdrawn his initiative petition for the Anti-combat Robot Act on Jan. 21, 2022.