Elon Musk, AI Experts Warn of 'Pandora's Box' of Weapons

Open letter asks for ban of autonomous 'killer robots'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2017 10:35 AM CDT
Elon Musk Joins Experts Calling for 'Killer Robot' Ban
A 2016 photo of Elon Musk.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Elon Musk's wariness on artificial intelligence is well documented, and he just stepped up his anti-robot efforts with a note to the United Nations. The Guardian reports that the Tesla CEO and Alphabet's Mustafa Suleyman, along with nearly 120 robotics and AI specialists from more than two dozen countries, have penned an open letter to the UN pleading with it to ban the development and deployment of so-called "killer robots," autonomous drones, tanks, and machine guns that the UN has voted to discuss. "Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend," the letter warns. "These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways."

The letter was debuted at an international AI conference in Australia. CNN notes that, per Human Rights Watch, more than a dozen countries are developing autonomous weapons, including the US, Russia, and China. Fortune notes the argument that "robotic warriors" could slash casualty rates among human troops, though it adds that would probably only apply to nations with the funds to bring such robots to fruition. HRW, however, cites one of its own reports that these weapons' "humanitarian and security risks would outweigh possible military benefits." Experts say autonomous weaponry could be available in mere years instead of decades—a prospect that has Musk and his allies pulling out all the stops against it. "We do not have long to act," the letter states. "Once this Pandora's box is opened, it will be hard to close." (Musk's recent tiff with Mark Zuckerberg over AI.)

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