Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, and over 1,000 other researchers have collectively signed an open letter that urges the United Nations to ban the development and the use of autonomous weapons. The letter was first presented at the 2015 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence. Together the researchers warn that the development of autonomous weapons could result in a “third revolution in warfare.” They warn against developing weapons that will be able to target and fire without a human at the controls.
The researchers warn that the weapons could easily become hijacked by terrorists and that they could possibly be used against civilians. Berkeley computer scientist Stuart Russell says that these weapons could potentially be used in the way that Kalashnikovs are used today in civil wars. He says that currently they are used “to terrorize populations by warlords and guerrillas,” and “they're used by governments to oppress their own people.” Russell further stated that a life in fear of terrorists or governments armed with autonomous artificially intelligent weapons, “would be a life for many human beings that is not something [he] would wish for anybody.”
In a Reddit session from earlier this year, Bill Gates stated that he too was “in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence.” He admitted that he couldn't “understand why some people are not concerned,” about this issue.
Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO, is also a co-signer of the open letter. Along with Google director of research Peter Norvig, Microsoft managing director Eric Horvitz, and many others. So far the open letter has reached more than 16,000 signatures, having been signed by more than 15,000 people in just three days since it was first released. In their letter they state, “just as most chemists and biologists have no interest in building chemical or biological weapons, most AI researchers have no interest in building AI weapons... and [they] do not want others to tarnish their field by doing so.”
It isn't all bad when it comes to AI, the researchers admit that they do see great potential for AI intelligence to offer tremendous benefit to humanity in many ways. They believe that this should be the end goal of the field, and that starting a “military AI arms race” is a bad idea that they would like to try and prevent. Together they call for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons” that would be beyond meaningful human control.
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