Elon Musk signs open letter calling for ban autonomous weapons

Over 1,000 high-profile artificial intelligence experts and leading researchers have signed an open letter warning of a “military artificial intelligence arms race” and calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons”.

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The letter, presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking along with 1,000 AI and robotics researchers.

The letter states: “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] 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.”

The authors argue that AI can be used to make the battlefield a safer place for military personnel, but that offensive weapons that operate on their own would lower the threshold of going to battle and result in greater loss of human life.

Should one military power start developing systems capable of selecting targets and operating autonomously without direct human control, it would start an arms race similar to the one for the atom bomb, the authors argue. Unlike nuclear weapons, however, AI requires no specific hard-to-create materials and will be difficult to monitor.

A soldier looks at a MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System) robot at the Marine West Military Expo at Camp Pendleton, California February 1, 2012. The expo is one of the year's largest annual display of new military equipment.  REUTERS/Mike Blake  (UNITED STATES - Tags: MILITARY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
A soldier looks at a MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System) robot at the Marine West Military Expo at Camp Pendleton, California February 1, 2012. The expo is one of the year’s largest annual display of new military equipment.

“The endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting,” said the authors.

The open letter can be read (and signed) here.

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Over 1,000 leading experts in artificial intelligence have signed an open letter calling for a ban on military AI development and autonomous weapons, as depicted within the Terminator sci-fi franchise.

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