A new petition signed by 116 AI experts, including Elon Musk, calls for the UN to ban all killer robots worldwide. We have seen major advancements made in the military department recently as far as robotics are concerned. Whether or not this petition will be taken into account remains to be seen. The UN has delayed further talks on the subject, which does not bode well for the effort.

Killer Robots Are a Threat to Us All

The potential impact of killer robots on the battlefield would be devastating. Although we may not necessarily find ourselves in a Terminator movie-like scenario right away, technology can easily be taken several steps too far if left unchecked. This is why a total of 116 AI experts recently signed a petition to enforce a ban of all killer robots worldwide. This issue had already been brought to the attention of the United Nations, and the organization has decided to postpone any further talks on the subject for now.

Leaders in robotics and artificial intelligence are genuinely concerned over the effect killer robots could have on our society as a whole. The list of concerned individuals includes Elon Musk, an individual who is both greatly involved in AI and aware of the dangers presented by this technology. The risk is especially acute when AI is combined with robots for the sole purpose of terminating threats, which may very well include humans. This technology is of great interest to military outfits around the world, for obvious reasons.

Lethal autonomous weapons have been documented on this website before. The advancements made in this particular industry are both astonishing and scary at the same time. A turret able to take down hostile targets on its own based on an algorithm does not sound like something people want to mess with, for example. These are only the initial developments which exist today, much less what researchers may come up with in the next decade. Autonomous weapons will make armed conflict an even bigger issue than it is today.

Considering that 123 UN member states had agreed to discuss the topic of killer robots, one might have expected a resolution to be drafted on the matter in the near future. That may not be the case, as those discussions have been postponed until issues involving some members’ unpaid dues are resolved. This did not prevent the experts — including Elon Musk — to sign this letter stating how autonomous weapons killing without human intervention is morally wrong in their view. It will be interesting to see whether the UN follows this train of thought or decides to take an entirely different approach over the coming years.

Now is the time to act on the matter of killer robots and military applications involving autonomy and AI. Such technology is no doubt beneficial in the future of warfare. At the same time, it may also become one of the biggest threats our society has had to deal with since the second World War. With tensions between countries rising, the last thing we need is armies of killer robots on the loose with no human intervention to reign them in. For now, that may seem like a distant threat, but it cannot be denied things have evolved at an accelerated pace.

It seems that various nations are presently speeding up their autonomous weapons development programs. The U.S., China, Israel, and Russia have been actively working on new solutions to take these technologies to the next level. Weaponizing robots and AI will yield a lot of interesting results, most of which may not be all that positive for humanity as a whole. Once this technology becomes common ground, it will be deployed for every purpose one can think of. That will eventually bring a whole new set of problems to the table. The UN has a tough call to make.