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Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, hundreds more urge global ban on autonomous killer robots

Hundreds of science and tech luminaries are freaked out about the real possibility of robotic machines that kill on their own, without a human picking the targets and pulling the trigger, and they think you should be worried, too.

On Monday, in an open letter presented at the opening of the International Joint Conference On Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, physicist Stephen Hawking, Space X founder Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and other prominent figures with ties to artificial intelligence (AI) warned about autonomous weapons and urged the world to enact a global ban on such human-free killing technology. The letter, organized by the Future of Life Institute, says that such technology is "feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high":

If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. 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. 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. [Future of Life Institute]

The signatories said they are speaking out not because they despise AI but because they believe it "has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways," so long as it doesn't include "offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control." You can read the entire letter at the Future of Life Institute.