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Elon Musk joins tech leaders warning UN of killer robots

Over 100 leading technology experts raise concern over autonomous developments, suggesting technology could lead to 'killer robots'.

By April Slattery

Elon Musk is among over 100 leading technology experts urging the United Nations to take action to prevent the development of killer robots.

Artificial intelligence and robotics experts across 26 countries have signed an open letter urging the UN to take action against the development of lethal autonomous devices.

Through the letter, the 116 experts want the UN to ban using AI in weaponry. The letter said: “Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. We do not have long to act.” The letter suggested developments of robotics could “be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons.”

Elon Musk joins tech leaders warning UN of killer robots

Autonomous drones among the list of ‘killer robots’ tech leaders urge to ban

Included in the weapons feared to lead to an arms race are automated tanks, drones and machine guns. The open letter wants to ban the development of such “killer robots”, the letter said: “Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend.”

Tesla founder, Elon Musk and Mustafa Suleyman, developer of Google’s Deepmind are among the industry experts asking for the devices to be banned under the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

UN committees have already previously discussed the potentially of banning the development of killer robots, in December 2016, though nothing has been concluded. To date, 19 of 123 member’s states have called an outright ban.

Experts signed the letter to the UN two years after an initial warning letter outlining the potential of autonomous creations. In 2015, over 1,000 technology experts wrote a letter warning AI developers of the dangers robotics can cause.

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Although killer robots do not currently exist, technology advances are certainly bringing the developments to reality.

Though most AI developers don’t set out to create dangerous killer robots, the increase in autonomous devices could lead to machines such as automated tanks developing to be dangerous weapons.

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Ray Chohan, SVP, Corporate Strategy at PatSnap looks at what is being done within innovation developments to ensure ethics and morality are included.

Chohan said:  “A patent filed in May 2017 proposes a ‘Neuro-fuzzy system’, which can represent moral, ethical, legal, cultural, regional or management policies relevant to the context of a machine, with the ability to fine-tune the system based on individual/corporate/societal or cultural preference. The technology refers to Boolean algebra and fuzzy-logic. While it appears there are some people who are looking into this area, much more investment will be needed if real progress is to be made.”

Autonomous devices would not be trained this way but bots have shown in the past of re-training their systems to change the way they work. For example, two Facebook bots creating their own language without input from developers.

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