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Some of the world's top scientists think it's judgement day in the battle against robo-killers

Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Steve Wozniak are all on board.

Autonomous weaponry has been the basis for the Terminator movie franchise.
Autonomous weaponry has been the basis for the Terminator movie franchise.
Image: Youtube/MovieClips

SCIENTISTS AND TECH experts — including Profesor Stephen Hawking and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak — have warned of a global arms race with weapons using artificial intelligence.

In an open letter with hundreds of signatories, the experts argued that if any major military power pushes ahead with development of autonomous weapons, “a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.”

There were seven signatories to the letter who either lecture or conduct their research in Ireland.

Some critics have argued in favour of so-called “killer robots,” saying the use of robotics on the battlefield could save lives.

“The deployment of such systems is, practically if not legally, feasible within years, not decades,” the letter said.

But the scientists warned that, unlike nuclear weapons, once they are developed they will require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials — making it possible to mass-produce them:

“It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc.,” the letter said.

The signatories included leading figures globally in academia and business studying artificial intelligence — the idea that computer systems could replicate tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as language translation or visual perception. They were joined by philosophers, historians, sociologists and geneticists, among others.

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Those signing letter included Elon Musk, Tesla Motors CEO; Demis Hassabis, who founded Google DeepMind; and Noam Chomsky, an emeritus professor at MIT.

“We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity,” the letter concluded. “There are many ways in which AI can make battlefields safer for humans, especially civilians, without creating new tools for killing people.”

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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