We already have some highly sophisticated weapons systems that use computer technology and electronics to do things on a battlefield undreamed of even a few decades ago. This does include robotic weapons systems. The important ingredient in all this tech is the presence of human control. At this point in time it still takes a human to drive these war machines.
But we are not the far from being able to create fully autonomous weapons systems, including autonomous robot armies, a la SkyNet and the Terminator. Recently, at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Melbourne, Australia some AI and robotics companies have taken a joint stand on the issue.
Elon Musk and Google DeepMind’s Mustafa Suleyman and 114 other experts in robotics and AI have written an open letter calling on the UN to ban the use of “killer robots” such as military drones. The text follows. For a complete list of signatories, click through on the last link.
A fully autonomous robot soldier will be able to decide for itself what the target is and how to best fulfill its mission, all without any human control. I know that I like to write tongue-in-cheek articles about artificial intelligence, robotics, and the singularity, but this is an important and super-scary issue. We do need to head this off at the pass, while we still can.
An Open Letter to the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons
As companies building the technologies in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics that may be
repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, we feel especially responsible in raising this alarm. We warmly welcome the decision of the UN’s Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) to establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems. Many of our researchers and engineers are eager to offer technical advice to your deliberations.
We commend the appointment of Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill of India as chair of the GGE. We entreat the High Contracting Parties participating in the GGE to work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies.
We regret that the GGE’s first meeting, which was due to start today, has been cancelled due to a small number of states failing to pay their financial contributions to the UN. We urge the High
Contracting Parties therefore to double their efforts at the first meeting of the GGE now planned for November.
Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they 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. We therefore implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers.Share