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AI experts urge UN to prevent development of “killer robots”

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Artificial intelligence experts, including Elon Musk, have sent a letter to the UN urging the organisation to prevent the development and use of “killer robots”.

A total of 116 experts from across the world warned the UN that lethal autonomous weapons “threaten to become the third revolution in warfare.”

The letter says:

“Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend.

“These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.

“We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close. We therefore implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers.”

The letter was addressed to the U.N. Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, whose aim is to prohibit or restrict using weapons “considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants or to affect civilians indiscriminately.”

A UN group had scheduled a meeting to take place on Monday related to the development of autonomous weapons, including drones, automated machine guns and tanks. However, the meeting was postponed until November.

This is not the first time that experts in the field have voiced their concerns about the use of AI technology in warfare.

Two years ago, a letter warning about the dangers of autonomous weaponry was signed by more than 1,000 experts. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak were among the signatories.

In a report released earlier this year, Izumi Nakamitsu, the head of the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs, said:

“There are currently no multilateral standards or regulations covering military AI applications.

“Without wanting to sound alarmist, there is a very real danger that without prompt action, technological innovation will outpace civilian oversight in this space.”