We need an international agreement to prevent the development of autonomous weapons before they threaten global security
By Peter Asaro | August 7, 2015
A Forum is an invited essay from experts on topical issues in science and technology.
Last week the Future of Life Institute released a letter signed by some 1,500 artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and technology researchers. Among them were celebrities of science and the technology industry—Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak—along with public intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and Daniel Dennett. The letter called for an international ban on offensive autonomous weapons, which could target and fire weapons without meaningful human control.
This week is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, together killing over 200,000 people, mostly civilians. It took 10 years before the physicist Albert Einstein and philosopher Bertrand Russell, along with nine other prominent scientists and intellectuals, issued a letter calling for global action to address the threat to humanity posed by nuclear weapons. They were motivated by the atomic devastation in Japan but also by the escalating arms race of the Cold War that was rapidly and vastly increasing the number, destructive capability, and efficient delivery of nuclear arms, draining vast resources and putting humanity at risk of total destruction. They also note in their letter that those who knew the most about the effects of such weapons were the most concerned and pessimistic about their continued development and use.