Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk & Others Say ‘Killer Robots’ With AI Must Be Banned

Joining Elon Musk, philosopher Noam Chomsky and Apple Founder Steve Wozniak, physicist Stephen Hawking has signed an open letter calling for a ban on “killer robots,” or “offensive autonomous weapons.” The experts join hundreds of robotics and AI researchers from several top universities and laboratories worldwide.

Bringing to mind such movies as the Terminator series, or TV series such as Battlestar Galactica, the open letter warns of the dangers involved in creating “killer robots” with artificial intelligence, or AI.

The open letter has been put together by the Future of Life Institute, a group which warns of the dangers of a “military AI arms race” and is working to mitigate “existential risks facing humanity,” particularly as it relates to subduing populations and certain ethnic groups.

“Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group.”

“We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity.”

“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. 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.”

Currently armed drones are controlled by human operators thousands of miles from the war zone. However, the next generation may include robotic armed drones which will then search and kill selected persons, based on their programming.

These and other autonomous robotic weapons are the dangers the group are fighting against. They add that autonomous weapons or “killer robots” “have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

In the letter the group states: “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades.”

While the group does see the potential of AI in benefiting the human race in so many ways, they believe that using the technology for “killer robots” brings the major danger of their use by brutal dictators, terrorists and others involved in ethnic cleansing and political assassinations.

As the technology for autonomous robotic weapons draws closer, the open letter also speaks of the possible impact on peaceful uses of AI, as the result of a possible backlash from public opinion. In other words, by drawing opposition to AI in general, the real benefits will be lost.

Besides signing the open letter, according to the Sydney Morning Herald Hawking has also started his first-ever AMA (Ask Me Anything) on reddit. Rather unusually, Hawking will be answering questions on his AMA for the next few weeks on the subject of AI and autonomous robotic weapons.

Instead of running a forum for a few hours, as is normal for a reddit AMA, Hawking will be running his AMA in two stages. Initially he and reddit will collect users’ questions for a set number of days.

Moderators will then ask other redditors to vote for the best questions, putting those higher on the thread for Hawking’s response. The next stage will involve Hawking posting the answers to the top voted questions on the popular Internet forum.

Reportedly within an hour of posting the AMA thread, redditors had posted over 800 comments, showing this will definitely be a popular AMA. For those interested in participating on the subject of “killer robots,” the AMA can be seen on reddit here.

In other news relating to Stephen Hawking, the Inquisitr recently reported that the physicist is leading a $100 million effort to search for intelligent life out in the universe.

[Photo by Tim P. Whitby / Getty Images Entertainment]