The Russian Ministry of Defense in 2018 opened a military-tech incubator of sorts called the Era technopolis, focused solely on the “creation of military artificial intelligence systems and supporting technologies.”

And China is already two years into its “Three-Year Action Plan for Promoting Development of a New Generation Artificial Intelligence Industry.” President Xi Jinping has said he believes AI will be a crucial part of the country’s military prowess moving forward.

Private-sector support is “vital” to AI projects, the Pax report states, and Kayser notes that Google instituted broad ethical guidelines following employee opposition to its work on the Pentagon’s Project Maven, a system that uses AI to select targets for drone strikes. Thales, the French defense and aerospace contractor, has committed to a ban on autonomous weaponry.

Private companies will go as far as the law allows, which includes “coming up with concepts and products that they think they might be able to sell,” says Cindy Otis, a former CIA military analyst.

“If they think there’s interest from governments, if there’s no regulation on them, they’ll do it,” Otis tells Quartz. “And defense contractors of course understand that war is increasingly automated. Weapons are increasingly meant to be ‘smart,’ and so they’re going to keep moving in that direction. Government has a responsibility in making sure there are regulations in place and countries putting into law what they’re willing to accept and what they’re not.”

To date, 28 countries have called for a full ban on autonomous lethal weapons. Kayser says although UN talks have been ongoing since 2014, the imminent threat requires a far more efficient process.

“This diplomatic process is slow and that’s one of the things we find [most] concerning,” he says. “We do see a growing group of states and people who see the need to set up clear international norms, but our concern is that this is not moving fast enough.”

Read the full text of the Pax report here:

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