Tech experts write to UN to warn against ‘killer robots’

United Nations

Over 100 robotics experts have written to the United Nations urging them to prevent the creation of “killer robots”.

In a letter to the UN, artificial intelligence (AI) experts, including Elon Musk have issued warnings about a “third revolution in warfare”, saying that “lethal autonomous” technology is a “Pandora’s box” that must not be opened.

“Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter says.

“These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways,” it adds.

There is an urgent tone to the message from the technology leaders, who warn that “we do not have long to act”.

“Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”

A ‘killer robot’ is an autonomous weapon with the ability to choose and target enemies without the need for human interaction. As yet, they do not exist but experts believe it will not be long before technology brings them into the world.

Those in favour of developing this form of weaponry believe that the current laws of warfare should be enough to govern the use of such technologies, however those that disagree warn of them being a threat to humanity.

The experts are calling for the robots to be added to the list of banned weapons, calling them “morally wrong”. As well as Musk, the letter was also signed by the co-founder of Google’s DeepMind, Mustafa Suleyman.

This is the second letter to be written warning of the dangers of autonomous weaponry, as in 2015 over 1,000 tech experts, researchers and scientists wrote to the UN. The list of signatories on this letter included Stephen Hawking and Steve Wozniak.

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