Fighter drones and firearms are still controlled by human hands, but this may soon change. Technological advances in artificial intelligence are arousing great interest in military research – for instance when it comes to automated killing machines.
This has to be prevented – that at least that is what Tesla boss Elon Musk and 116 entrepreneurs from the technology sector have demanded in an open letter. Among the signatories is Google manager Mustafa Suleyman who, like Musk, is active in the field of robotics technology.
In a letter published on the website of the "Future of Life" Institute, the executives call for a ban on autonomous weapons. Following the invention of gunpowder and the atomic bomb, they see the imminent threat of a new, third revolution in warfare. In the eyes of these entrepreneurs, new wars could arise that are many times faster and bigger than humans are capable of comprehending.
"Once this Pandora's box has been opened, it will be difficult to close again," says the letter. Despots could use autonomous weapons against innocent populations or terrorists could hack them to behave in undesirable ways. The Guardian has previously reported on this phenomenon in detail.
One reason for the initiative includes the recent willingness of the United Nations (UN) to discuss the use of autonomous weapon systems. The entrepreneurs are consequently demanding that autonomous weapons be placed on the list banning "certain conventional weapons", i.e. the CCW list , which has existed since 1983. This includes chemical weapons.
This is not the first time Musk has warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence. As recently as July, at a meeting with U.S. governors, the billionaire businessman explained that artificial intelligence was the greatest danger facing society as a whole. Early regulation by politicians is thus one of his central demands. Just a few months ago, he founded an initiative to halt the forward march of excessively powerful computers.