Fully Autonomous Weapons Coming...but They're Not Here Yet

Artists depiction of autonomous weaponized unmanned aircraft.

Artists depiction of autonomous weaponized unmanned aircraft.

August 28, 2017 | Source: WIRED, wired.co.uk, 21 August 2017, Matt Burgess

Pioneers from the worlds of artificial intelligence and robotics – including Elon Musk and Deepmind's Mustafa Suleyman – have asked the United Nations to ban autonomous weapon systems. A letter from the experts says the weapons currently under development risk opening a "Pandora's box" that if left open could create a dangerous "third revolution in warfare".

The open letter coincides with the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, which is currently being held in Melbourne, Australia. It's not the first time Musk and co. have issued a stark, headline-grabbing, warning about killer robots. Ahead of the same conference in 2015, the Telsa founder was joined by Steven Hawking, Steve Wozniak and Noam Chomsky in condemning a new "global arms race".

Suggestions that warfare will be transformed by artificially intelligent weapons capable of making their own decisions about who to kill are not hyperbolic. Computer science professor Stuart Russell, from the University of California, has said two US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) schemes could lead to the development of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS). These include finding ways for drones to fly with pinpoint precision and work together in hostile environments.