Tesla head Elon Musk and other leaders in the fields of AI and robotics have signed a letter calling on the United Nations to ban lethal autonomous weapons, otherwise known as “killer robots.”
In the letter they said; “Once developed, [autonomous weapons] will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” write the signatories. “These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”
The heads of 116 AI and robotic companies from about 26 countries and it is their hope that the timing of the letter (just ahead of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence) will be pivotal in getting the United Nations to ban it.
Speaking on the need to act, signatory Ryan Gariepy, founder of Clearpath Robotics, said in a press statement. “This is not a hypothetical scenario, but a very real, very pressing concern which needs immediate action,” said “We should not lose sight of the fact that, unlike other potential manifestations of AI which still remain in the realm of science fiction, autonomous weapons systems are on the cusp of development right now and have a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability.”
Some nations including the United States, China, Russia, and Israel already have such weapons in development while a country like South Korea already have deployed autonomous border turrets which are equipped with machine guns and are technically capable of identifying and firing on targets without human intervention, although currently human operators have to authorize any lethal shots.
It is feared that with the way nations are trying to outdo each other in the research and development of autonomous weapons, it could lead to a kind of arms stockpiling race.
“We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.” said the petition by the AI who fear that this kind of behavior could cause a problem that the world will have a hard time solving.