Elon Musk, still not yet content to leave our robot-ridden Earth for a safer life on his true home planet of Mars, knows what the future holds. We are barreling toward a future of the robots killing us all, and Musk wants to stop it. So, he and 116 other tech experts are calling for a ban on autonomous weapons—soon.
The Guardian reports that Musk and other robotics and artificial-intelligence experts, all of whom can be found here, published an open letter ahead of an international researcher conference on artificial intelligence this week. It calls for a ban on autonomous weapons—you know, the Terminator kind of stuff that’ll make you want to go back to using a flip phone and dial-up internet to prevent robots from turning against their makers and vaporizing the population.
With that pleasant thought in mind, the very people who develop artificial intelligence and autonomous technology, like Musk, want to try to reason with their fellow humans about the dangers of both. It’s a weird dynamic, but it’s better than death by robots.
Their plea against autonomous lethal weapons is so short that the list of people supporting it is longer than the letter itself, but it can be read in full here. This is the main gist of it all, from its final two paragraphs:
Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons 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.
So, even the robot experts think the robots are going to kill us all. Things are really, truly going to be fine. We’re all going to live happy, full lives and not die on the wrong end of a robot’s weaponry.
Here’s some more context on the ideas behind the letter, from the Guardian:
Experts have previously warned that AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of autonomous weapons is feasible within years, rather than decades. While AI can be used to make the battlefield a safer place for military personnel, experts fear that offensive weapons that operate on their own would lower the threshold of going to battle and result in greater loss of human life.
The letter, launching at the opening of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI) in Melbourne on Monday, has the backing of high-profile figures in the robotics field and strongly stresses the need for urgent action, after the UN was forced to delay a meeting that was due to start Monday to review the issue.
If you’re near a window, look outside. Appreciate the grass, the trees, the butterflies, even those pesky wasps that keep building nests on your porch. You should remember what beauty—and all of that other stuff—looks like before the robots burn it all down.