Two days after Elon Musk launched a non-profit to protect us from robots, U.S. deputy defense secretary Robert Work warned a forum today about the strides being made by China and Russia with their “killer robot” programs.

U.S. May Need To Catch Up With China and Russia's Army Of Killer Robots

Deputy defense secretary warns of robot danger at forum

The race to weaponize autonomous robots is heating up with the United States Department of Defense keen, and under pressure, to keep up with both Russian and Chinese efforts to build killer robots. Speaking at a forum of the Center for National Security, U.S. deputy defense secretary Robert Work spoke of the progress that both China and Russia were making and warned of a coming “inflection point.”

While I don’t know what an “inflection point” is, having seen all the “Terminator” films, I just think SkyNet must be involved.

At the forum, Work reiterated the need for the United States military to “dominate” the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning which are key to the Pentagon’s “offset strategy.” Work then suggested that the United States would make friendlier(?) killer robots while warning about what Russia and China might do.

“I will make a hypothesis: that authoritarian regimes who believe people are weaknesses … that they can not be trusted, they will naturally gravitate toward totally automated solutions. Why do I know that? Because that is exactly the way the Soviets conceived of their reconnaissance strike complex. It was going to be completely automated. We believe that the advantage we have as we start this competition is our people,” he said.

So what do these Russian killer robots look like?

Speaking to Russia’s aims in the military field of AI and killer robots he spoke about comments made by Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Vasilevich Gerasimov who claims that in the near future, humans on the seen of a battle won’t be necessary.

He pointed out that Gerasimov recently said, “In the near future, it is possible that a complete roboticized unit will be created capable of independently conducting military operations.”

In a recent report by Defense One, Russia is working on an autonomous robot that looks like the T-14 Armata Tank produced by the defense company Uralgonzavod. The T-14 Armata is a fifth-generation Russian main battle tank that was first unveiled this year at the Moscow Victory Day Parade which commemorated the 70th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s capitulation to the Soviets.

The T-14’s primary weapon is a 125mm smoothbore cannon with up two 32 rounds of varying nastiness held in an auto-loader. The T-14 is also equipped with a number of machine guns and can even be outfitted with anti-aircraft missiles. Russia plans to take deliver of 2,300 of these death machines between this year and 2020.

The T-14 has a crew of three but in the case of a robot that number will be, you guessed it, zero. The deputy director-general of Uralgonzavod recently said that they will have begin producing prototypes of the robot tank within two years time.

And China’s killer robots?

The Harbin Institue of Technology unveiled a whole different type of robot, more accurately a team of robots at the Beijing 2015 World Robot Conference. According to Popular Science the Institute is already taking orders.

Three separate models were shown at the conference and were designed to work as a team. The attack robot can be equipped with a variety of weapons including grenade launchers, recoiless anti-tank guns (presumably to fight Russian Robot tanks), machine guns and assault rifles.

The reconnaissance model is carried in a soldier’s backpack and is equipped with Nuclear-Biological-Chemical detectors. The third robot unveiled is an ordinance disposal robot with a remotely operated arm.

Together, the recon robot would locate a threat, the EOD robot would look to disarm and the one with all the guns could defend the others.

As someone who was terrified in Shanghai during Chinese New Year owing to the fireworks, this lot might keep me awake at night.

The three could be used to suppress an urban insurrection in let’s say Xinjiang province without endangering the lives of soldiers.

Elon Musk to rescue us from killer robots?

On Monday, Tesla and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, announced the $1 billion funding of a non-profit group with the aims of “saving humanity” from the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI).

Last October, speaking at a conference at MIT, Elon Musk echoed the fears of notable thinkers like Stephen Hawking when he called artificial intelligence “our biggest existential threat.” He continued by saying that work in the field scares him and that “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.”

On Monday, Musk announced that he was joining other tech luminaries in launching OpenAI, a not-for-profit artificial intelligence research think tank and action group.

OpenAI’s goal “is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return,” according to a statement on its website. “The founders hope to grow AI into a leading, open-sourced research institution that deploys new technologies in a way that is safe for humanity.”

Thank you Elon Musk and others, your work is truly appreciated.