My name is Essam Attia. I’m a US Army veteran, artist, advocate, and policy advisor for the US Senate. The journey that brought me to Stop Killer Robots began when I served as a geospatial analyst in the Army. I deployed to Camp Victory, a small military installation at the Baghdad International Airport, where I worked on the Joint Operation Center floor, creating map products and beta-testing the first Theater Geospatial Database. In the early 2000s, drones were the latest and greatest technology on the battlefield and fed commanders a 24/7 drone’s-eye-view of combat and surveillance operations around the country. At the time, the military only had three predator drones in Iraq, but that quickly changed.
When I returned to the States and learned that drone pilots were operating from the relative comfort of domestic military installations, and their proliferation was hastily expanding, I was distraught. My life then changed forever when I realized that domestic law enforcement entities were acquiring drone technology and seeking to build their own drone arsenals to capture cattle thieves and monitor activists.
I am deeply worried about the ramifications for humanity if we allow Artificial Intelligence (AI) to begin engaging human targets without human decision makers in the kill chain.
I firmly believe the marriage of AI and lethal weapons poses an existential threat to humanity that must be stopped.
Since 2011 I have dedicated my personal and professional life to raising awareness of the dangers posed by drones and autonomous weapons, and my path eventually crossed with Stop Killer Robots in early 2019.
Despite the apparent challenges to bring the US, China, Russia, Turkey, Israel, and others to the negotiating table, I am optimistic that we can overcome the runaway AI arms race we are living through; however, it cannot be done with the innocent and well-intentioned sitting on the sidelines. I believe everyone’s voice has immense power to share stories and shift perspectives, and we all must participate in shaping our collective future. Our responsibility to ourselves, our loved ones, and our community is to speak out against injustices as we see them.
The fight against entropy is never-ending, but one thing is for sure: if we don't participate, disorder will reign.
We stand at a crossroads with little time left to act, but the fate of humanity is in our own hands. Whether our future relationship with technology more closely resembles Slaughterbots or The Jetsons is entirely in our control.
Whether through art, policy, or protest, it is within everyone’s capacity and capability to contribute to social discourse in meaningful and impactful ways, shifting public understanding and moving society towards a more just and equitable future.
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