A group of 116 artificial intelligence and robotics specialists, including Tesla’s Elon Musk and Mustafa Suleyman of Google Deepmind, have addressed an open letter to the United Nations, calling for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons. But is this ban too little, too late?
The UN is shortly to begin discussions on the prohibition of autonomous weapons such as drones, tanks and automated machine guns, with 19 countries already in support of an outright ban. While there is support for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons (LAW), they are currently being used. South Korea has sentry guns that are designed to open fire on humans and vehicles.
The letter, published at the opening of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI) in Melbourne, reads: “Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend”.
And that future is the present.
I admire the gesture, the united push for a ban on killer robots, but countries that agree to ban aren’t going to actually honor it. Autonomous weapons and AI is the future of warfare, so any nation not developing in the area will be left behind and at risk to those that do. What we will see is an arms race. Now, this arms race might be behind the facade of an all out ban, but let’s not kid ourselves. Nations will design terminators and T-1000s if they believe their enemy is already doing so.