Hawking, Musk, and scientists trying to ban killer drones

After imagining them, creating them, and developing them, scientists now are trying to stop drones. (AP file photo)

After imagining them, creating them, and developing them, scientists now are trying to stop them.

This week, a letter went out to all the governments in the world warning them about a danger that once was the province of science fiction and is now just years away: smart drones.

The warning is signed by a thousand researchers, academics, and scientists including luminaries like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk and it begins with the stark assessment that we are facing the third revolution in warfare. First came gunpowder. Then the atomic bomb. Now it’s autonomous weapons, a.k.a. drones, fitted with artificial intelligence, not controlled directly by a human.

As P. W. Singer, author of “Wired for War” and a director with the Brookings Institute, described it in a recent lecture, “mankind’s five thousand year monopoly on the fighting of war is breaking down in our lifetime.”

That worries the signers for two big reasons.

One: committing smart drones to a battlefield isn’t the same as putting boots on the ground. They don’t bleed, they break. That has huge impact on politicians deciding whether to wage war and the public’s acceptance of that decision. The letter states, “replacing human soldiers by machines is good by reducing casualties for the owner but bad by thereby lowering the threshold for going to battle.”

Singer says, “we make take the already lowering bar for war and drop it to the ground. People are more likely to support military action if they see it as costless.”

In essence, by making war less bloody, will we make it more acceptable?

Two: we’ve already crossed the starting line of a new arms race and without action now, it will spiral out of control.

“If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is inevitable and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.” (Kalashnikovs is another name for the AK-47 assault rifle developed by the Soviet Union and now one of the most used rifles in the world.)

Once that happens, it’s a short step to the black market and putting these weapons in the hands of terrorist organizations and “dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing,” the letter states. “Autonomous weapons are ideal for assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations, and selectively killing a particular ethnic group.”

Musk, Hawking, and the rest of the group are looking not to stuff the genie back into the bottle, but to urge governments to come together and do what has been done by the international community to restrict the use of biological and chemical weapons. They are not asking for an end to research into Artificial Intelligence, just the indiscriminate militarization of AI.

The letter concludes, “In summary, we believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways and the goal of the field should be to do so. Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.”

Source: Hawking, Musk, and scientists trying to ban killer drones

Via: Google Alerts for AI

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