Killer robots a very real threat say Stephen Hawking and others 11



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Stephen Hawking, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and 1000 academics, researchers and public figures have warned that a global robotic arms race is “virtually inevitable” unless a ban is imposed on autonomous weapons.

Presenting as The Future of Life Institute, the group has published an open letter that offers a terrifying prediction of the dangers ahead, should the world’s powers push ahead with development of using artificial intelligence as weapons.

The letter was presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aries, read it below:

Autonomous Weapons: an Open Letter from AI & Robotics Researchers

Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.

Many arguments have been made for and against autonomous weapons, for example that replacing human soldiers by machines is good by reducing casualties for the owner but bad by thereby lowering the threshold for going to battle.

The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.

Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce. It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc. Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilising nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group. We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity. There are many ways in which AI can make battlefields safer for humans, especially civilians, without creating new tools for killing people.

Just as most chemists and biologists have no interest in building chemical or biological weapons, most AI researchers have no interest in building AI weapons — and do not want others to tarnish their field by doing so, potentially creating a major public backlash against AI that curtails its future societal benefits. Indeed, chemists and biologists have broadly supported international agreements that have successfully prohibited chemical and biological weapons, just as most physicists supported the treaties banning space-based nuclear weapons and blinding laser weapons.

In summary, we believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways, and that the goal of the field should be to do so. Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.

Does the idea of a robotic arms race alarm you? Do you think it’s possible – or even inevitable? 

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  1. Damn shame we are still having to worry about this kind of nightmare, so uncivilised of the human race.

  2. nothing would surprise me but they will have to get a bit better with technology first, I went to the bank this morning, the computers were down and even the auto tellers were out of service, the human tellers were just standing around..I went home again

  3. I find that letter hard to believe due to the fact they say that there is a ban on laser weapons, That is BS for a start the Yanks are already experimenting with them and will have them in action in less than 10 years. But I believe that it will be the next generation of weapons.

  4. I do not trust the powers that be! And I don’t trust little mans lust for war mongering. This is horribly frightening. Already with the Drone it has the possibility to do bad things. With AI things enter the level we have only known in Science Fiction. Of course we the people must band together and fight it being used for warfare,even though I abhor the human loss of life in Battle. So,better still work for Peace on this beautiful Planet. If they have managed a halt to nuclear proliferation,they must stop the advance of AI lest it fall onto the black market and into evil hands.

  5. The Israelis used a banned weapon against Palestinians civilians. The desire for victory or revenge can be so strong that morality is put aside. No country with the scientific know how is going to stop developing what ever it can to give it an edge. There is a lot of existing weaponry that scares me, genetically targeted biological weapons that can be deployed to impact racial groups. Bombs that can be dropped to eradicate humans but leave all infrastructure standing. What is one more method of eradicating humankind.

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