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Killer Robots Discussed At 2016 World Economic Forum

Robotic Man
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While the prospect of “killer robots” is nothing new to the world of science fiction, the topic had never come up at the World Economic Forum until now.

At this year’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the topic of autonomous weapons came up amid a flurry of discussions pertaining to artificial intelligence and for the first time, was entertained by the scientists, political leaders and billionaires in attendance.

The elite group, which convened earlier this week at a snow-covered ski resort in Davos, discussed the notion of implementing rules to safeguard humanity from the potential dangers posed by autonomous weapons.

Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO and founder of private space firm SpaceX, and world renown theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking are but two of a growing number that have warned of the possibility of a Terminator-esque scenario in which killer robots destroy humanity.

Musk has even gone as far as to pledge $10 million towards “keeping AI beneficial to humanity.”

Speaking in Davos, Angela Kane, who served as the German UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs from 2012 until 2015, said that it might already be “too late” to enact regulations protecting humanity against autonomous weapons, Discovery News reported.

It may be too late […] There are many countries and many representatives in the international community that really do not understand what is involved. This development is something that is limited to a certain number of advanced countries

While modern day drones capable of carrying out attacks might come to mind for some, UC Berkeley computer science professor Stuart Russell explained at the meeting in Davos that it’s not the human piloted drones of today that are the real concern, but rather the artificially intelligent weapons that are capable of locating and attacking targets “without human intervention.”

We are not talking about drones, where a human pilot is controlling the drone […] We are talking about autonomous weapons, which means that there is no one behind it. AI: artificial intelligence weapons,” he told a forum in Davos. “Very precisely, weapons that can locate and attack targets without human intervention.

Hawking and Musk were among the thousands who signed an open letter last year that referred to an artificial intelligence arms race as “a bad idea” that “should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.”

On the other side of the fence, there are those such as associate dean Ronald Arkin with the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta who see a preemptive ban on autonomous weapons as a possible missed opportunity, as such weapons might harbor the potential to contribute to a reduction in noncombatant casualties, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

According to last year’s open letter signed by Musk and others, AI powered weapons might be “feasible” within a matter of years.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.

The research arm of the U.S. military, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), recently announced a new project aimed at bridging the gap between human brains and computers, which quickly sparked rumors of cyborg soldiers.

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