If you have been a fan of Sci-fi movies, chances are you’ve seen Hollywood’s eerie portrayal of technology in the future. Films like RoboCop and Iron Man depict a sense of what future warfare might look like. Although you might feel we are far away from this technology, Elon Musk and a total of 116 other AI experts over the week felt that we might be closer than you may think.

AI Experts appeal to UN

Over the weekend, the world’s leading robotics and AI professionals including Elon Musk and Alphabet’s head of AI research, Mustafa Suleyman, signed an open letter addressed to the UN calling for an all out ban on any autonomous weapons.

united nations general assembly

In the letter it states,

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 time scales faster than humans comprehend.

Signatories include organizations in over 25 different countries where they plead with the UN to prevent the development and spread of the autonomous weapons. The letter compares the killer robots to being “weapons of terror,” putting them on the same playing field as chemical and nuclear weapons. It also states that there is a possibility that terrorists and despot will use the technology against innocent populations if action is not taken.

Many of these concerns echo Elon Musk’s earlier statements about Artificial Intelligence when he encouraged all U.S. governors to think about regulation of AI.

The letter is calling for immediate action as many experts feel that a point of no return will be reached in a matter of years.

A Modern Day Terminator

You might think that Artificial Intelligence and autonomous weapons are decades are away, but the reality is that there are already prototypes out there.

Samsung’s SGR-A1 sentry gun is the best example to date as it has received the most attention when it comes to autonomous weapons.

According to a Cal Poly report, it is able to fire autonomously on intruders. It was design to guard the border between South and North Korea and reduce the workforce of the South Korean border patrol.

While it is no life-like robot, many argue that the SGR — A1 is leading warfare and weapon technology down a very dangerous path.

Critics to the Ban

As the open letter was signed, critics opposing the ban began to voice their opinion. They argued that we are not going to be able to stop the development of autonomous weapons and killer robots. The main focus of critics is that the leading experts should begin to focus on how to apply ethics to the development of these autonomous robots.

elon musk at TED 2017

While the critics do make some very interesting points, the letter started a dialogue that needed to begin. If not addressed with caution and rationale, a third revolution of warfare could dangerously take the world by storm.

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