Some of the most influential people in technology and science have joined hands and signed an open letter calling for the ban of 'offensive' autonomous weapons.
The letter, which has been presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has over 1,000 signatures from experts in AI and robotics, including professor Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk.
The letter describes the danger in any one military power pursuing the development of AI weapons:
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.
The main attraction for using AI weapons, it states, is the potential it has to reduce human casualties in a war zone.
However, it continues that the potential disadvantages of pursuing the acquisition of these weapons far outweighs any gains to be made:
Unlike nuclear weapons, they [AI weapons] 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.
The letter does not include "cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones (for which humans make all targeting decisions)," in its list of arms that need to banned.
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Describing autonomous weapons as "new tools for killing people," it adds:
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.
Both Musk and Wozniak have been quite outspoken in the past about artificial intelligence and the danger robots could pose in the not-so-distant future.
In June Wozniak told Freescale Technology Forum 2015 in Austin, Texas that humans will one day become pets once artificially intelligent beings become masters of the planet.