Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s concerns about artificial intelligence are well-documented, but he has now taken his concerns to the next level. Musk and more than 100 other experts and engineers have signed a letter to the United Nations which urges the international organization to regulate AI weapons.
Musk joins other engineers in call for regulation of AI weapons
Although Musk is perhaps the most famous person to sign the open letter, Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of Google’s DeepMind, and Gary Marcus, founder and CEO of Geometric Intelligence, which was acquired by Uber, also signed it. All of those who put their name to it are considered to be leaders and experts in the area of artificial intelligence. They addressed the letter to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
The engineers and experts who signed the open letter to the UN warn that AI weapons could lead to a “third revolution in warfare.” The letter focuses specifically on autonomous weapons, and they’re concerned about a new arms race focused on these types of weapons. The letter was released in Melbourne today at a international conference focused on artificial intelligence.
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A warning about “killer robots”
The engineers who warned the UN about AI weapons were especially focused on so-called “killer robots,” which are futuristic weapons that can be programmed to hit specific people or other targets. In theory, these robots would be designed to operate out on the battlefield autonomously without direct input from people.
According to the open letter, after such robotic AI weapons are developed, “they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend.” The letter added that these killer robots could be used to commit terrorism and harm innocent people. Further, it said that these AI weapons could be “hacked to behave in undesirable ways.” The experts warned the UN that the world is up against a short timeline and urged the organization to act quickly because “once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”
Growing number of voices warning about AI
The open letter is timely because a UN group to consider the issue was set to meet today, according to the BBC and now the group is scheduled to meet in November. The media outlet adds that Elon Musk joined with another coalition of major technology leaders in signing a similar letter a couple of years ago. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking also signed that letter in 2015.
Of note, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg clashed with Musk over the issue of artificial intelligence recently. Zuckerberg disagrees with the view that doomsday scenarios are likely if AI becomes to proliferate. He went so far as to say that it’s “pretty irresponsible” to say such things, while Musk responded by saying that the Facebook founder’s understanding of artificial intelligence technology is “limited.”
Supposedly, Facebook had to shut down its own AI system recently because it developed its own alien language, although some have suggested that it could have been nothing but a publicity stunt.