Open Letter Against Artificial Intelligence Weapons

By Vlad Tverdohleb , Jul 28, 2015 11:12 PM EDT

We all got familiar with epic robot wars from the science fiction movies like "Terminator", but these dark scenarios may soon become reality. A group of high-tech, robotics and artificial intelligence leaders have sent an open letter to warn against transforming our darkest fears into reality.

Famous scientists such as Apple Inc.'s co-founder Steve Wozniak, Tesla Motors Inc.'s founder Elon Musk and the reputable astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, are just a few big names among the signatories of a letter calling for a ban on artificial intelligence autonomous weapons. The open letter was presented today at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Argentina by the Future of Life Institute.

The scientists and industry leaders signatories of this letter label autonomous weapons as "the third revolution in warfare". AI autonomous weapons might bring a revolution in warfare as big as the previous major changes caused by the invention of the gunpowder and nuclear weapons.

The letter states that in case that a major military power would push ahead with AI weapon development, the mankind would enter an era of a new global arms race. This would have catastrophic consequences, since the most likely outcome will be the proliferation of autonomous weapons with consequences beyond imaginable.

AI weapons may become as common as the Kalashnikovs of today, says the letter, since they require no hard to obtain or costly materials, unlike nuclear weapons. They could be mass-produced by all significant military powers due to their inexpensive price.

Among the endorsers of the letter calling for a ban against AI weapons are also included Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype and Noam Chomsky, prominent linguist. The experts warn that it will be possible to deploy autonomous systems in years rather than decades. For this reason the political decisional factors need to seriously consider a ban on such weapons "beyond meaningful human control." The alternative would be an arms race that could be far more dangerous than the Cold War.

The industry leaders made it clear that most of the AI researchers have no interest in building autonomous weapons and want to prevent others to take advantage of their field of research by doing so. If military powers will choose to use the results of the research on artificial intelligence for developing a new generation of weapons this will potentially create major public backlash against AI.

The future social benefits of AI would be lost if the public opinion would turn against all kind of research on artificial intelligence, according to the letter. For this reason, it is necessary that AI research to be regulated and kept only for civil applications. A ban on AI autonomous weapons would be similar with the ban on biological and chemical weapons.

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