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‘Killer robots with AI should be banned’

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Addressing concerns regarding start of a “military arms race”, more than 1,000 robotics experts and artificial intelligence (AI) researchers, spanning physicist Stephen Hawking, technologist Elon Musk, and philosopher Noam Chomsky have signed an open letter calling for the ban of offensive autonomous weapons, better known as “killer robots”.

Apart from hundreds of AI and robotics researchers from top-flight universities and laboratories, the signatories of the letter include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

“AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades”, says the letter put together by the Future of Life Institute, a group that works to mitigate “existential risks facing humanity”.

Autonomous weapons “have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms”, the letter further adds.

The weapons include armed drones that can search for and kill certain people based on their programming.

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Warning against the pitfalls of AI, the letter says that despite the institute seeing the “great potential [of AI] to benefit humanity in many ways”, the development of robotic weapons would prove useful to terrorists, brutal dictators, and those wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing.

As such the weapons do not yet truly exist, but the technology that would allow them to be used is under works.

By eliminating the risk of human deaths, robotic weapons would lower the threshold for going to war thereby making wars potentially more common, the signatories to the letter believe.

By building robotic weapons, the letter warns that a public backlash could grow and curtail the genuine benefits of AI.

Working to pre-emptively ban robotic weapons, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a group formed in 2012 by a list of NGOs including Human Rights Watch, is trying to get the Convention of Conventional Weapons to set up a group of governmental experts which would look into the issue.

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The Convention of Conventional Weapons in Geneva is a UN-linked group that seeks to prohibit the use of certain conventional weapons such as landmines and laser weapons which were pre-emptively banned in 1995.

Meanwhile, the UK has opposed a ban on killer robots at a UN conference, saying that it “does  not see the need for a prohibition” of autonomous weapons.

South Korea has unveiled similar weapons; armed sentry robots whose cameras and heat sensors allow detection and tracking of humans automatically, although the machines require a human operator to fire the weapons.

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