Elon Musk, the chief executive of Telsa, has called for a ban on the use of automated weapons.
The tech billionaire has joined with other over a hundred artificial intelligence and robotic experts to call on the UN to ban their use in the military.
In an open letter, these industry leaders said: “As companies building the technologies in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, we feel especially responsible in raising this alarm.”
They added “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 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. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”
The letter was signed by founders, CEOs and CTOs of companies from across the world including India, Mexico and Russia. All feel the the use of autonomous weapons could cause immense suffering the human race.
A report by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs outlined some of the risks from autonomous weapons. They claimed that “the prospect of fully autonomous weapon systems raises many fundamental concerns for international peace and security, and it might even have implications on the international norms and mechanisms that have been governing us in this field of “warfare”. The increasing automation of the battlefield and the growing separation between the user and subject of deadly force is likely to lower the threshold for the use of that force. It could also strain legal protections for civilians.”
They also added that “these weapons technologies will also pose new, distinct proliferation challenges and will likely be sought after by unscrupulous actors with malicious intent. Some experts have predicted that, without proper constraints, autonomous weapons will have the capability to inflict massive human casualties at a fraction of the cost of existing military arsenals.”
The use of drones by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan have been controversial. Between January 2012 and February 2013, US special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those killed only 35 were the intended target. In effect, there is a huge risk of killing civilians during a drone strike. In military language, these people are referred to as collateral, but innocent deaths have been a large aspect of drone strikes.
Leaders of the robotics industry now believe that the technology they use in innovation could have dire consequences for the world. Such weapons could have the possibility of using facial and voice recognition to take out targeting killings. Samsung’s SGR-A1 sentry gun, which is reportedly technically capable of firing autonomously, is already in use. Others are likely to be developed by the weapons industry.