Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk warn of the dangers of Military Artificial Intelligence

Stephen Hawking, Left, and Elon Musk, Right, warn against artificial intelligence causing next arms race. Images taken from Wikipedia. Background Image: Robocop Trailer.

A group of over 1000 leaders and robotic researchers issued a statement about the possibility of artificial intelligence (AI) causing the next arms race.

According to an open letter posted by the Future of Life Institute, the group warned that no country should develop “offensive autonomous weapons,” because doing so would make a global arms race “virtually inevitable.”

The letter states that the “endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.” The letter will be presented at the opening ceremony of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, being held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A video recently surfaced of a Russian military robot firing a machine gun, something American robots have not yet achieved, mainly due to political and other limitations. According to Popular Mechanics, Russia is indeed developing autonomous fighting robots. The country already has such weapons in small sizes, but it is now attempting to expand its program.

However, the US Army suggests that America is not far behind in developing AI technology, as the army is developing fully autonomous tactical vehicles. Mark Mazzara, an Army robotics officer, publicized the Army’s efforts on April 8th at the National Defense Industrial Association Ground Robotics Capabilities Conference and Exhibition held in Crystal City, Virginia.

According to the US Army Research Laboratory, robots are being developed that will be able to fight enemies on their own. They will be able to understand and adapt to dynamic environments and autonomously execute military operations. They will also be able to communicate with each other and manipulate objects.

The Army’s objectives are eerily similar to the premise of the 2014 version of Robo Cop.

RDECOM defines the scope of the Army’s AI efforts in the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance report, stating, “Key barriers we will address include: how to achieve adequate levels of integration, how to make representations robustness, how to gain human trust, methods for real-world reliable communication with minimal or no operator control unit, and models of team behavior such that robots can function effectively within human teams.”

Musk and Hawking have previously expressed a combination of concern and optimism regarding AI development. In January, they both signed a similar open letter, suggesting that development of AI should focus on the “eradication of disease and poverty,” and take care to avoid the potential dystopian possibilities inherent in AI.

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