A.I. researchers have announced that they will be boycotting the South Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) after it was discovered that the institute had reportedly opened a weapons lab at Hanwha Systems. The controversy stems from the fact that Hanwha Systems is one of just two makers in the country that specializes in cluster munitions. Meanwhile, the somewhat secretive KAIST exists at the bleeding edge of the artificial intelligence industry and recent projects have included generating a brain-like, emotion-conscious A.I. Combining those two factors together, it's easy to see why as many as 50 of the top A.I. researchers from around the world are not happy.
As part of the boycott, none of those researchers will be interacting with KAIST until they can be certain that the university is not creating weapons that are A.I.-driven without "meaningful" human control. That means that those researchers will no longer be visiting the institute or hosting visitors from KAIST, leaving along any type of cooperation in terms of research. For its part, Hanwha Systems has already said that it won't have any part in the development of those kinds of weapon systems. However, its response doesn't necessarily cover all of the researchers' concerns since the company specifically said it won't develop "lethal" A.I. weapons or robots. KAIST has also responded and seems to concede the points made by researchers but, as of this writing, it isn't clear whether or not the boycott has or will be nullified.
It goes without saying that KAIST is not the only entity facing blowback from A.I.-related controversies. As recently as April 4, Googlers have begun speaking out against the search giant's involvement in the Pentagon's Project Maven. That project is intended to use A.I. and machine learning to analyze images taken by drones and other means to identify and track objects. It's worried that the war-centric system could be misused and utilized to identify and track people via facial recognition. However, KAIST's involvement with Hanwha Systems extends a bit beyond that. Whether or not that turns out to be the case is anybody's guess but the researchers in question won't be interacting with the institute until they're sure that's not what's happening.