Tesla’s Elon Musk and Google-parent Alphabet’s Mustafa Suleyman join a total of 116 names from the cutting edge of modern technology to ask the United Nations for a worldwide ban on autonomous warfare.
Following the recent vote by the UN to begin formally discussing the use of robots as weapons of war, the founders of keystone companies in the rise of this technology have released a letter that openly pleads with the UN to ban their use in warfare outright, so as to prevent a “third revolution in warfare.”
The first two, gunpowder and nuclear weapons, forever changed the world as we know it. “As companies building the technologies in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons,” Musk and his peers feel “especially responsible in raising this alarm” as they “implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers.”
Their warning is grim:
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. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.
And, unfortunately, it is entirely accurate. There is arguably no greater danger facing humanity’s immediate future than remorseless, inhuman, automatic killers. The Kalashnikov Group’s debut of automated mechanized assault weapons is only the tip of a deadly proverbial iceberg.
To this end, the founders “warmly welcome” the UN’s decision to “establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems” within the “Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).” They are “eager to offer technical advice to [the] deliberations.” The goal:
We entreat the High Contracting Parties participating in the GGE to work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies.
The conversation will be led by Indian Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill. So far, the first meeting has already been delayed, due to a “small number” of states who have not paid their financial obligations to the United Nations. If we are very fortunate, by the time their next meeting is held in November, we will not have already crossed the line into killer robot territory.
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