Elon Musk and AI Experts Urge UN to Ban Development of Killer Robots

AI and robots are all fun until they are used as warfare machines. Movies like Robocop and iRobot may be fictional, but the ideology behind them – using robots as killing machines is real, and if world leaders don’t take it seriously could lead to the annihilation of humanity. And no, this is not fear-mongering or exaggerated facts; this is as real as the development of the nuclear bomb. So real that a team of robotics and AI pioneers are calling the United Nations to, ‘ban the development and use of killer robots.’

Leading the team is Elon Musk, one of 21st century’s greatest innovators who has produced groundbreaking works in AI, space travel, and automobiles. Elon and Google’s Mustafa Suleyman are leading a group of 116 specialists from 26 countries who are calling for the ban of using robots as weapons. The letter written by the team members urges the UN to urgently look into the development of lethal weapons as means of sophisticated new-gen warfare that could create wide-scale havoc in relatively small amount of time. According to the letter sent to the UN, these robots could be used by, ‘despots and terrorists,’ and, ‘hacked to behave in undesirable ways.’

Several prominent AI experts voiced their serious concerns about the development of killer robots and all cited, ‘real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability.’ A similar letter was issued in July 2015, that claimed, ‘a military AI arms race,’ was a ‘bad idea,’ simply because these machines were too easy to hack into and could easily, ‘lack meaningful human control.’

The Campaign urges the UN to act as soon as it can since the world’s most powerful countries, i.e, China, US, Russia, and Israel are already on their way to develop lethal autonomous weapons with South Korea being the one country that has already deployed an autonomous model.

Like every other world issue out there, there are supporters and there are critics. Supporters of killer robots and autonomous weapons believe that human casualty will be minimized as the robots will be programmed and trained to kill specific targets instead of ordinary citizens. The US Department of Defense, for example, encourages investment in autonomous weapon technology just so that America may have an edge over other countries. Unfortunately, the same kind of mindset is also being employed by America’s direct competitors – China and Russia. With all these powerful countries developing their version of super killer robots, there is hardly any ground for world peace especially when the countries are already using nuclear technology to threaten each other.

We would also be falsely idealistic if we were to believe that autonomous weapons are not an immediate threat. With the rapid advancement in computing technology, neural networks, and AI, it is no overstatement to claim that the development of these catastrophic machines could take just a few years to be fully developed and deployed. Of course, an AI battlefield is probably safer and less bloody than an actual war, but what happens if the machines are used in the wrong hands? What happens if it’s not under the control of the government and can easily be hacked and manipulated by enemy teams or terrorists?

The risk to having robot killers are too great to consider using them as efficient warfare machines. As the leaders stated in the letter to the UN, ‘We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.’ Looks like killer robots in our favorite super movies are no longer just, ‘cool stuff.’

Farah tries to keep up with the fast-paced tech world by writing about it. She covers latest tech news and writes informative pieces to help her readers make informed decisions about their tech preferences.