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Stephen Hawking: Weapons Driven by Artificial Intelligence Should Be Banned

Image: Stephen Hawking: Weapons Driven by Artificial Intelligence Should Be Banned
British scientist Stephen Hawking attends the U.K. premiere of the film 'The Theory of Everything' in London on December 9, 2014. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 28 Jul 2015 08:09 AM

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak are among the signatories of a new, open letter that seeks to ban autonomous weapons driven by artificial intelligence.

"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," reads part of the letter, published to FutureofLife.org.

"Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce. It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc. Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group."

The signatories are joined by Skype-cofounder Jaan Tallinn, Noam Chomsky, and dozens of other academics and researchers, and the letter is open for anyone to sign. As a kind of petition, the letter writers hope those attending the 2015 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires will help jump-start a wider discussion of the subject.

In making its plea, the letter notes that the world has successfully banned many categories of weapons in the past, arguing that the pre-emptive banning of autonomous weapons is feasible, and could save the world from a plague of real-life Terminators.

"Indeed, chemists and biologists have broadly supported international agreements that have successfully prohibited chemical and biological weapons, just as most physicists supported the treaties banning space-based nuclear weapons and blinding laser weapons," the letter reads.

CNN Money noted that the U.S. military currently uses many types of remotely controlled weapons, like drones, as well as MADSS and the Protector robot dogs that carry gear, scan for bombs, and even shoot guns and bazookas.

In time, systems like these could become fully automated, meaning they could be programmed with an objective, and set free to go to work all on their own.

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Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak are among the signatories of a new, open letter that seeks to ban autonomous weapons driven by artificial intelligence.
stephen hawking, weapons, artificial, intelligence, banned
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2015-09-28
Tuesday, 28 Jul 2015 08:09 AM
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