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Hawking & Musk Urge: No War with AI Robots

Elon Musk, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors and the CEO/CTO of Space ExplorationTechnologies, joined roughly 1,000 artificial intelligence (AI) experts, scientists and robotics researchers–including Stephen Hawking–to sign a letter urging the world’s nations to reject using artificial intelligence when waging war.

The letter, presented Monday at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and published by the Future of Life Institute (FLI), stated:

Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention. They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. 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 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.

… 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.

… Just as most chemists and biologists have no interest in building chemical or biological weapons, most AI researchers have no interest in building AI weapons — and do not want others to tarnish their field by doing so, potentially creating a major public backlash against AI that curtails its future societal benefits.

… In summary, we believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways, and that the goal of the field should be to do so. Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.

Musk, who has donated $10M to FLI to run a global research program to ensure that AI is used for beneficial purposes, has called artificial intelligence humanity’s “biggest threat.” Hawking has warned, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Other signatories include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak; Google DeepMind co-founders Demis Hassabis, Mustafa Suleyman and Shane Legg; Google Director of Research Peter Norvig, and radical leftist professor Noam Chomsky.

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