Elon Musk Signs Letter Urging Military To Cancel Artificial Intelligence Robots

Just as consumers are eagerly hoping for driverless cars, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and hundreds of others are urging military researchers to be careful what they wish for.

Not quite predicting the day that Skynet becomes self aware, Musk, and others including Stephen Hawking are urging them to cease development of autonomous artificial intelligence weapons.

The call for the worldwide ban is intended as a poignant cry now that more than unintended consequences, the consequnces of terrorists getting these weapons within years are predictable and inevitable, and definitely not good

This is according to an open letter revealed Monday at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires.

Unlike benign driverless cars to convey passengers, the types of self-guided, thinking machines openly feared are ones that can target people and execute them at will without human guidance or risk to a human operator.

“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,” says the letter.

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Other signatories include Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple; Noam Chomsky, linguist and political philosopher; and Demis Hassabis, chief executive of the artificial intelligence company Google DeepMind, reports the New York Times.

They are speaking up now with concern. Far simpler than nuclear weapons, AI weapons could be made on a budget and with limited resources; affordable to mass produce by any military, and in due time by terrorists and other bad operators.

“If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow,” says the letter. “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.”

As human beings develop ever more effective means of killing, machines that pose no risk to the operator being un-manned should be avoided, not unlike how biological weapons are because the potential is too dire.

“Just as most chemists and biologists have no interest in building chemical or biological weapons, most AI researchers have no interest in building AI weapons — and do not want others to tarnish their field by doing so, potentially creating a major public backlash against AI that curtails its future societal benefits,” says the letter.

Elon Musk has also said artififial intelligence itself has frightening posssibilitiues, and has called it the “biggest existential threat” to humanity.

Autonomous Weapons: an Open Letter from AI & Robotics Researchers

Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. 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.

Many arguments have been made for and against autonomous weapons, for example that replacing human soldiers by machines is good by reducing casualties for the owner but bad by thereby lowering the threshold for going to battle. The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. Unlike nuclear weapons, they 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. Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group. 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.

Just as most chemists and biologists have no interest in building chemical or biological weapons, most AI researchers have no interest in building AI weapons — and do not want others to tarnish their field by doing so, potentially creating a major public backlash against AI that curtails its future societal benefits. Indeed, chemists and biologists have broadly supported international agreements that have successfully prohibited chemical and biological weapons, just as most physicists supported the treaties banning space-based nuclear weapons and blinding laser weapons.

In summary, we believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways, and that the goal of the field should be to do so. Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.

New York Times