Elon Musk and Other Tech Experts Urge the UN To Ban 'Killer Robots'

Monday, 21 August 2017 - 7:14PM
Artificial Intelligence
Robotics
Monday, 21 August 2017 - 7:14PM
Elon Musk and Other Tech Experts Urge the UN To Ban 'Killer Robots'
NASA
The problem with Terminator 2's opening scene is that it makes robot murderbots look incredibly cool. If given the chance, what military power wouldn't want to replace their fleshy human troops with an army of sleek metal monsters that can casually straddle a mountain of skulls without feeling remorse?

With many modern nations eager to make use of drone technology in warzones, a group of robotics engineers, scientists, and the ever-vocal Elon Musk have grouped together to urge the UN to ban so-called "killer robots", and make it a war crime to deploy autonomous weapons in battle. 116 experts have signed a group letter to the UN pleading for a ban, as talks continue on the future use of drones and other such machines within the world's militaries.

According to the letter:

Opening quote
"Once developed, [autonomous weapons] 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."
Closing quote


Considering Musk's previous comments warning of a robot uprising, one might reasonably assume that he's worried about these robots overthrowing humanity. In this case, though, there's a much more pressing concern: the fact that, safe in the knowledge that their troops aren't in danger when robots are deployed in their place, the world's militaries will become far more cavalier with the lives of their enemies, and will visit greater death and destruction on those poor, unfortunate souls that don't have their own giant murderbot to hide behind.

It's hard to argue against the idea that this technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate. Drones can now fire sniper rifles while compensating for recoil, making them, in many ways, more efficient snipers than humans (after all, no matter how well trained a sniper might be, they probably still can't fly). The US already has a warship that's capable of identifying threats and countering with missiles completely autonomously - technology that will likely get greater use in the future.



Experts have been warning for a while now that we need a ban on this technology immediately, as delays are already leading to deaths around the world. It turns out, if you give a military general the keys to a murderbot, it's exceptionally hard not to turn the thing on and point it at the part of the world that's been giving you the biggest headache recently.

Terminator 2 may end up being a pretty accurate depiction of the future after all. The only thing James Cameron got wrong is that, when the robots start gunning people down, it's not because of an uprising. The real danger is that we'll find new and more inventive ways to use robotics technology to more effectively destroy ourselves.
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