Elon Musk, world tech leaders, call for ban on killer robots

Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk has signed the open letter urging the UN to ban autonomous weapons

Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk has signed the open letter urging the UN to ban autonomous weapons

The open letter, which was signed by representatives from companies worth collectively billions of dollars across 26 countries, could put even more pressure to make a prohibition happen.

"Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at times scales faster than humans can comprehend", the letter says. Australia is not among those that have already stated their position.

"We regret that the GGE's first meeting, which was due to start today (August 21, 2017), has been cancelled due to a small number of states failing to pay their financial contributions to the United Nations".

In expressing disappointment at the meeting's cancellation, which will now occur later this year, the group offered many of their researchers and engineers who "are eager to offer technical advice" to the CCW GGE's deliberations.

"We do not have long to act", the open letter reads.

Experts published the letter to coincide with the, launching at the opening of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI) in Melbourne on Monday.

The original 2015 letter, directed at the United Nations, was co-signed by over 1,000 different scientists and researchers from around the world, including Stephen Hawking, Noam Chomsky and Steve Wozniak.

In reference to the signatories, the press release for the letter added, "Their companies employ tens of thousands of researchers, roboticists and engineers, are worth billions of dollars and cover the globe from North to South, East to West: Australia, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, UK, United Arab Emirates and US".

According to the letter, the business people welcome the move to establish the group of experts, offer to support its activities with the sufficient capabilities and call on it to find a way to protect the humanity from potential dangers of such robotic systems.

The "third revolution" to which the campaigners refer positions killer robots as a kind of technological successor to the historical developments of gunpowder and nuclear weaponry - innovations that haven't exactly improved the world we live in.

"Nearly every technology can be used for good and bad, and artificial intelligence is no different". "It can help tackle numerous pressing problems facing society today: inequality and poverty, the challenges posed by climate change and the ongoing global financial crisis".

Part of Musk's donations went to the creation of the Future of Life Institute.

"The number of prominent companies and individuals who have signed this letter reinforces our warning that this is not a hypothetical scenario, but a very real, very pressing concern which needs immediate action", Gariepy said.

"We should not lose sight of the fact that, unlike other potential manifestations of AI which still remain in the realm of science fiction, autonomous weapons systems are on the cusp of development right now and have a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability", he said.

Advocates of a ban on lethal autonomous weapons want all development in the field to be considered for prohibition, just as is done with biological and chemical weapons, but not all countries are agreeable.

Automated tanks, drones and machine guns are among the weapons they fear could lead to an arms race.

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