More than 1,000 experts in Artificial Intelligence, including Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and Stephen Hawking, have penned a letter warning of a “military artificial intelligence arms race” and demanding that “offensive autonomous weapons” be banned. The letter was presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires (where papers were presented on topics as diverse as gambling at Monte Carlo and ‘Improving the Efficiency of Dynamic Programming on Tree Decompositions via Machine Learning’), and while the authors agree that AI in warfare can make battlefields safer for soldiers, they warn that “the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”
The AI experts foresee an updated version of the Cold War nuclear arms race, but with one crucial difference. Unlike the atom bomb, AI does not require hard-to-find materials and is difficult to monitor. “The endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting.” While some might think a Terminator-like future with killer robots is improbable, this is not the first time Musk or Hawking have warned against the dangers of unfettered development of Artificial Intelligence.