The same man who brought you PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX is now urging the UN to ban the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in weaponry. Elon Musk believes that artificially intelligent “killer robots” are “morally wrong” and a potential threat to humanity – and he’s petitioning the UN along with 115 other experts in robotics to prevent “a third revolution in warfare.”
In a letter to the United Nations, the experts ask for killer robot technology to be added to the list of weapons banned under the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. ”Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter says. “These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”
The urgent tone of the letter cannot be missed. The leaders warn, “we do not have long to act” and add, “Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”
The BBC reports that a killer robot is a fully autonomous weapon capable of selecting and engaging targets without human intervention. Developed for the purpose of war, the technology could be a potential threat to humanity. For this reason, the experts in robotics are requesting autonomous “kill functions” be banned.
The UN group focusing on autonomous weaponry was scheduled to reconvene this Monday. However, the meeting has now been postponed to November.
This isn’t the first time the faction of the UN has considered a ban on killer robot technology. In 2015, more than 1,000 tech experts, researchers, and scientists wrote a letter warning about the dangers of autonomous weaponry. Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Musk were among the signatories.