Some of the world’s leading robotics and artificial intelligence experts are calling on the UN to ban the development of fully autonomous military robots. Tesla chief Elon musk and Google’s Mustafa Suleymun are leading a group of 116 specialists from over 26 countries who are asking for autonomous robots to be added to a list of “morally wrong” weapons.
This would see them prohibited under the UN’s convention on certain conventional weapons (CCW), introduced in 1983. It currently includes chemical weapons and intentionally blinding laser weapons. Although the technology in question does not yet exist, the group believes that an autonomous arms race could usher in the “third stage of war,” after gunpowder and nuclear weapons.
The letter reads: “Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.
“We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”
The letter launched on Monday at the opening of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Melbourne, Australia. According to the UN website, a group focused on robotic weapons was due to meet on Monday, but was cancelled and re-scheduled until November.
Musk has long stressed the risk posed by artificial intelligence, clashing with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg who he said had a “limited’ understanding of the subject.
Zuckerburg had said: “I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios… I just, I don’t understand it. It’s really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible.”