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Tech experts warn against 'killer robots'

July 28, 2015

More than 1,000 leading scientists have penned an open letter condemning the possibility of an AI arms race. It is only a "matter of time" before dictators and warlords also get the technology, they say.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa

A group of scientists, philosophers and technology experts including Stephen Hawking and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak issued a stern warning on Tuesday against a global arms race of "killer robots," or weaponized artificial intelligence (AI).

While proponents argue that using robotics in the arms industry can save human lives on the battlefield, the letter signed by the scientists and presented at the 2015 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires painted a much bleaker picture. Not only could the weapons easily fall into the hands of dictators or warlords and be used to assist in atrocities like ethnic cleansing, their components make them much easier to produce than nuclear weapons.

Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking can attract attention to any scientific debateImage: AP

"The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting," read the letter signed by around 1,000 global tech chiefs, adding that if any military pushes ahead with developing AI weapons, such as arms race is "virtually inevitable."

"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," the scientists cautioned.

"There are man ways in which AI can make battlefields safer for humans, especially civilians, without creating new tools for killing people," the letter concluded.

Elon Musk, the co-founder of PayPal and CEO of Tesla Motors, urged the public to sign up to the campaign, tweeting: "If you're against a military AI arms race, please sign this open letter."

es/glb/kms (AP, AFP)