Scientists and prominent tech leaders have called for the United Nations (UN) to take action to stop the proliferation of “killer robots.” At the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Melbourne on Monday, technology leaders from around the world congregated at the event, first held in 1969, and requested that the development of weaponry using artificial intelligence (AI) be halted as “once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”
As part of this open letter to the UN, the scientists and business leaders, including world-renowned AI expert Toby Walsh, Elon Musk of Tesla and James Chow of China’s UBTECH, called for the use of lethal autonomous weapons, or killer robots, to be outlawed much in the same way as chemical and biological weapons on the battlefield.
“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,” Xinhua cited the letter as saying.
Signed by several of the world’s top AI minds, the letter was spearheaded by Walsh, a professor in AI at the University of New South Wales, who told Xinhua that he was concerned with what he felt was an “arms race” occurring around the world. “I’m very worried about the impact that autonomy will have on the battlefields. There’s an arms race happening today, you can see the US military, the UK military, the Russian military – it’s a bit of an arms race,” Walsh was quoted as saying.
“It would be a very dangerous, destabilised world we end up in if we do allow ourselves to fight war with these sorts of weapons.” Walsh and his cosignatories are asking the UN to step in and ban autonomous weapons, and he said that there has already been some positive movement from the UN in this regard.”This is one where myself and thousands of my colleagues actually signed an open letter saying that the UN should take action, and the UN is starting slowly, but surely to take action in this space,” Walsh added.
One of the biggest worries shared by these technology leaders is that a rogue state, or tyrannical regime, would be able to use this these weapons in order to suppress their populace into docility, and Walsh outlined the likely path he feels will be taken in such an eventuality. “It is certainly a worry that I have that autonomous robots will be used to suppress a whole nation, and it will be much easier than it used to be,” Walsh said.