As far as we're aware, the Terminator was never brought to a halt by a petition. But that hasn't stopped more than 1,000 high profile artificial intelligence experts attempting pretty much that.
Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking are among those to have signed an open letter warning against a robot arms race. It claims that if any major military power were to start developing AI weapons “a global arms race is virtually inevitable”.
They argue that artificial intelligence has reached the point where robots could “select and engage targets without human intervention” within years, adding “the stakes are high”.
“Autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare after gunpowder and nuclear arms”, the letter continues, going on to say they will “become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow”.
While acknowledging the benefits of AI weapons – making the field of war safer for military personnel, for example – it warned that these kinds of arms would make it easier to go to war, and therefore result in greater loss of human life.
The scientists, researchers and AI experts also warned they could fall into the wrong hands.
“Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce,” the letter explained. “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.
“Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group. We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity," the letter, which is being presented to the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina today, says.
“We believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways, and that the goal of the field should be to do so. Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control."