Skynet can wait, says Scientists. While Terminators might be a big hit on the silver screen, an open letter backed by over 1000 researchers on artificial intelligence has called for a ban on the development of autonomous weapons.
The letter, officially published at the International Joint Conference on Articifical Intelligence 2015 in Buenos Aires, is backed by the world’s leading AI researchers as well as high profile members of industry and science, including Stephen Hawkings, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, Noam Chomsky, and many others.
“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,” the letter wrote.
The letter defines autonomous weapons as weapons that engage targets without human intervention, and weighs up both sides of the argument.
While it acknowledges autonomous weapons would lower human casualties, the letter argues that such perceived benefits would only lower “the threshold for going into 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,” the letter voiced. “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.”
The letter highlights a series of potential applications for weaponised AIs, including assassinations and ethnic cleansing, concluding that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity.
Just as chemists and biologists have banned together to support international agreements to prohibit chemical and biological weapons, the AI researchers are calling on “a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.”
Source: Future of Life Institute