Killer robots, or lethal autonomous weapons, should be banned because of the potential scale of destruction and their ability to be hacked, industry leaders say.
Killer robots, or lethal autonomous weapons, should be banned because of the potential scale of destruction and their ability to be hacked, industry leaders say. SUPPLIED

Tech experts seek ban on robots that can kill

MORE than 100 experts in robotics and artificial intelligence are calling on the United Nations to ban the development and use of killer robots and add them to a list of "morally wrong” weapons including blinding lasers and chemical weapons.

Google's Mustafa Suleyman and Tesla's Elon Musk are among the most prominent names on a list of 116 tech experts who have signed an open letter asking the UN to ban autonomous weapons in a bid to prevent an arms race.

In December, the UN voted to begin formal talks over the future of such weapons, including tanks, drones and automated machine guns. So far, 19 out of 123 member states have called for an outright ban on lethal autonomous weapons.

One of the letter's key organisers, Toby Walsh, a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of New South Wales, unveiled the letter at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Melbourne.

The letter marks the first time artificial intelligence experts and robotics companies have taken a joint stance on the issue.

The letter 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 time scales 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.”

It concludes with an urgent plea for the UN "to find a way to protect us all from these dangers”.

Professor Walsh said artificial intelligence could help tackle many of the pressing problems facing society, but added: "The same technology can also be used in autonomous weapons to industrialise war. We need to make decisions today choosing which of these futures we want.” - INM



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