UC Berkeley Professor’s Video on Autonomous Weapons Goes Viral

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Columbia Pictures

A video by UC Berkeley Professor Stuart Russell that cautions against the rise of autonomous weapons has gone viral since its release earlier this month.

The video, entitled “Slaughterbots,” depicts the development of robots designed to combat terrorism and crime that are ultimately used to kill a group of senators and college students. Russell appears briefly at the end of the video to warn against the development of autonomous weapons.

Despite the futuristic feel of the video, Russell claims that its plot isn’t speculative. “This short film is just more than speculation,” Russell said. “It shows the results of integrating and militarizing technologies that we already have.”

“Allowing machines to choose to kill humans will be devastating to our security and freedom,” Russell added. “We have an opportunity to prevent the future you just saw, but the window to act is closing fast.”

The video was released in part by the Future of Life Institute, which arranged to have it played before the United Nations Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva, Switzerland last week.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have news for you: the robots are not taking over the world. Humans are still in charge,” India’s disarmament ambassador, Amandeep Gill argued after the video was played.

Russell signed onto a letter in 2015 that called for a ban on autonomous weapons. “Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention,” the letter read. “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.”

“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,” the letter continued. “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.”

Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Steve Wozniak were amongst those who signed onto the letter.


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