Apparently we should all have taken the robot movies of our time more seriously. Well at least Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk seem to agree that something like Genisys (cheers to everyone who got the Arnie reference) is more than possible, because they, alongside 1000 AI and robotics researchers have signed a letter suggesting a ban on AI warfare, warning of the potential for rampant destruction at the hands of “autonomy weaponry”.
The letter warned:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.
This was not necessarily meant as an end to all high-tech warfare, but rather a warning to ensure that the trigger would always remain in the hands of human controllers. That means we hopefully won’t see any automated weaponry, which could be use to seek and destroy targets that meet a certain pre-defined criteria, but rather focus on “cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions.”
If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.
Hawking and Musk have already expressed heightened caution regarding AI technologies. Musk has recently referred to artificial intelligence as humanity’s “biggest existential threat,” while Hawking has said that the technology “could spell the end of the human race.”
In addition to being signed by professor Stephen Hawking and Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, signatories of the letter also included Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, professor Noam Chomsky and Google Director of Research Peter Norvig.
In closing, the letter stated, “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.”
If you have any questions regarding professor Hawking’s thoughts on AI warfare, you should go submit a question to his AMA on Reddit, which will be live on the site all week long.