TECH

Elon Musk And 100 Experts Write Open Letter Calling For Ban Of Killer Robots

'We don't have long to act.'

21/08/2017 10:37 BST | Updated 21/08/2017 14:56 BST

Killer robots might sound like the stuff of fiction, but now experts have issued a stark warning about the dangers these potential death-machines pose to the future of our planet.

Among the 116 signatures on the open letter, from 26 countries, were Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk and Google’s Mustafa Suleyman, who both called for the outright ban on deadly robots that could usher in a “third age” of warfare.

And they cautioned we don’t have long to act: “Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.” 

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images

The public document was published in the light of the United Nations commissioning a ’Convention on Conventional Weapons’ made up of delegates from 123 nations, that was meant to meet on Monday.

However the meeting was delayed, and has now been postponed till November, according to Fortune.

Prompted to act, the letter urges the UN to completely block the use of lethal autonomous weapons, which include drones, tanks and automatic machine guns.

The letter said: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.”

This isn’t the first time that tech experts have warned that AI-facilitated military technology presents a very real threat, lowering the threshold for going into battle helping to subdue populations and aid acts of genocide.

Not only that but the technology means it will be available within years, not decades. 

In 2015, Stephen Hawking and Musk were co-authors on a letter from the Future of Life Institute, that warned killer robots would be a broader danger, not just on the battlefield. 

Then in December 2016 the UN confirmed they would be gathering a delegation to debate the topic, and come to an answer in 2017.

At the time Human Rights Watch said the meeting marked a step “towards a ban” on weapons that can strike without human intervention.