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Elon Musk and over 100 engineers and artificial intelligence scientists have posted an open letter encouraging the United Nations (UN) to globally ban autonomous weapons. The ban would aim to eliminate the chances of humankind being targeted and exterminated by armies of man-made murderous robots. Musk and other robotics experts believe this future is within the realm of possibility if a system of checks and balances is not put in place now.

The letter was submitted Monday to the UN’s Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) where the approval to establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems was welcomed by engineers across the globe. Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill of India was also appointed chair of the GGE, and the other parties who signed the letter have voiced their eagerness to offer their expertise. Experts hope to set guidelines when developing regulations for the manufacturing of autonomous weapons.

They bluntly warn: Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend.

The idea that autonomous weapons currently participate in modern warfare might feel mind-boggling, but in reality technological warfare is expanding at an alarming rate. According to the Exponential Technological Advancement calculation by 2040 mankind will have mastered bio, nano, robotic, and computer technologies that current understanding couldn’t remotely describe. Without proper research, analysis, and testing anything created could potentially fall into the wrong hands producing catastrophic results.

Although free-thinking killer robots erasing humankind is a terrifying thought, autonomous weapons today controlled by terrorist organizations could pose a sinister threat. The letter continues: These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act.”

Musk has been vocal regarding his concerns when discussing weaponizing artificial intelligence; so vocal that he recently started his company Neuralink. Neuralink is “developing ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers” with the ultimate goal being enhancing the human brain as it is now with integrated technology capable of combating any potential AI threat.

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Devastating consequences aside, an out of control black market for autonomous weapons could also have an interesting effect on the development of innovative and creative AI. Element AI founder Yoshua Bengio warned that killer robots could also “hurt the further development of AI’s good applications.” Limiting our potential to harness the incredible good robotics could have on mankind would be detrimental to the advancement of our civilization, and mastering it is crucial to our survival.

Although the warnings of a tech billionaire might cause an eyeroll, Musk and other notable robotic scientists are predicting a rapidly approaching reality if we don’t act now to establish regulations. Autonomous weapons like drones and guided missiles are currently in the U.S. military arsenal, and sophisticated hackers, criminals and terrorists could gain access to sensitive American weaponry. By urging the UN to regulate the design and manufacturing of killer robots experts hope to prevent a threat capable of wiping humans from the planet.

Candice Chandler
Candice Chandler is a writing and editing professional that's contributed to both in print and online magazines for the past 10 years. She's written and researched articles regarding environmentalism, infrastructure, business, mental illness, technology, science and news. Hailing from Southern California, Candice enjoys anything ocean-related, reading and blissfully enduring her high-maintenance hound, Olive.