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Stop the killer robots, UN urged

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By Max Salsbury

Maker of everything Elon Musk has called for the end of so-called ‘killer robots’, warning that they could become weapons of terror.

Along with another 115 technology types, Musk has asked the United Nations to ban the production and use of automated killing machines, such as drones and machine guns that go about their lethal business without a human finger in sight.

It’s an admirable notion but seeing as there are thousands of nuclear warheads in the world that the UN doesn’t seem to have been able to do much about, one suspects that the march towards more expensive ways of blowing things up will continue unabated.

Anyhow, in a letter to the world’s collective conscience, the techies warn that robotic killing machines represent the ‘third revolution in warfare’, with the first two being gunpowder and nuclear bombs.

They write: ‘We don’t have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is open it’ll be very hard to close.’

Back in 2015, when, amazingly, the world seemed a comparatively normal place, the UK government opposed a proposed ban on automated weapons on the grounds that, get this, ‘international humanitarian law already provides sufficient regulation for this area’ – and if that sounds like slippery gibberish, that’s because it is.

Musk has warned on many previous occasions about the threat posed to our ongoing existence by artificial intelligence (AI). He has, I assume, read our briefing on AI from earlier in the year, that covers its current use in local government and which you can read here.

Sadly, killer robots have two large things in their favour: firstly, they tap into the human race’s unparalleled capacity for mass slaughter; and, secondly, they offer a way for a handful of people to make a great deal of money. So, things aren’t looking good.

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