Thousands of the world’s leading tech experts have called for a ban on autonomous weapons, arguing that the right to take human life “should never be delegated to a machine.”
The statement, signed by over 2,400 tech professionals from 150 companies in 90 nations, adds that its signatories will “neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons.” The group calls on private firms, and governments, to follow suit.
The statement was created on Wednesday at the 2018 Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Stockholm, Sweden’s tech-heavy capital. Its signatories include SpaceX founder Elon Musk, DeepMind co-founders Demis Hassabis and Shane Legg, and Google senior fellow Jeffrey Dean.
They warn that unilateral development of killer robots could spark an international arms race, unbounded by transnational organizations. “There is a moral component to this position, that we should not allow machines to make life-taking decisions for which others–or nobody–will be culpable,” it reads.
“There is also a powerful pragmatic argument: lethal autonomous weapons, selecting and engaging targets without human intervention, would be dangerously destabilizing for every country and individual. Thousands of AI researchers agree that by removing the risk, attributability, and difficulty of taking human lives, lethal autonomous weapons could become powerful instruments of violence and oppression, especially when linked to surveillance and data systems.”
Drones and other unmanned vehicles already deliver deadly payloads in conflicts in Yemen, Afghanistan and other locations under siege. Arming them with AI is an act decried by dozens of the world’s top scientists. Shortly before his death this March, British physicist Sir Stephen Hawking claimed AI could be the “worst event” in civilization. SpaceX and Tesla head Musk has also warned that AI could precipitate the end of humankind.