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 Ban on (artificial Intelligent) AI and autonomous weapons: Killer Robots?

Over 1,000 high-profile artificial intelligence experts and leading researchers have signed an open letter warning of a “military artificial intelligence arms race” and calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons”.

The letter, presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking along with 1,000 AI and robotics researchers.

The letter states: “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] 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 authors argue that AI can be used to make the battlefield a safer place for military personnel, but that offensive weapons that operate on their own would lower the threshold of going to battle and result in greater loss of human life.

Should one military power start developing systems capable of selecting targets and operating autonomously without direct human control, it would start an arms race similar to the one for the atom bomb, the authors argue.

Unlike nuclear weapons, however, AI requires no specific hard-to-create materials and will be difficult to monitor.

“The endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting,” said the authors.

Toby Walsh, professor of AI at the University of New South Wales said:

“We need to make a decision today that will shape our future and determine whether we follow a path of good. We support the call by a number of different humanitarian organisations for a UN ban on offensive autonomous weapons, similar to the recent ban on blinding lasers.”

Musk and Hawking have warned that AI is “our biggest existential threat” and that the development of full AI could “spell the end of the human race”.

But others, including Wozniak have recently changed their minds on AI, with the Apple co-founder saying that robots would be good for humans, making them like the “family pet and taken care of all the time”.

At a UN conference in Geneva in April discussing the future of weaponry, including so-called “killer robots”, the UK opposed a ban on the development of autonomous weapons, despite calls from various pressure groups, including the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

The Guardian view on robots as weapons: the human factor

Andrew Bossone shared this link

No killer robots please

More than 1,000 experts and leading robotics researchers sign open letter warning of military artificial intelligence arms race
theguardian.com|By Samuel Gibbs

‘I’m an Atheist’: Stephen Hawking on God and Space Travel

World-famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking says flat-out that he doesn’t believe in God, but he does believe that space travel offers the best hope for our species’ immortality.

Those pronouncements came during the buildup to this week’s Starmus Festival at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, where Hawking and other scientific luminaries have gathered for rounds of talks, tours and elbow-rubbing. 

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo engineered an exclusive interview with Hawking, and headlined its report with his views on the origins of the universe.

In the past, there’s been a tiny bit of ambiguity: In “A Brief History of Time,” Hawking writes that the discovery of a unifying set of scientific principles known as the theory of everything would enable scientists to “know the mind of God.”

But in a follow-up book about the quest for the theory of everything, titled “The Grand Design,” Hawking said the mechanism behind the origin of the universe was becoming so well known that God was no longer necessary.

El Mundo’s Pablo Jauregui asked about those two references to God in one of the questions he prepared for Hawking to answer, and here’s the scientist’s response:

“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation.

What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”

Hawking addressed the issue more delicately several years ago when he told Reuters that he was “not religious in the normal sense,” and said “God does not intervene to break the laws” that He decreed.

Since then, however, there’s been a lot more theorizing devoted to the origin of the universe. Hawking now believes that an approach known as M-theory will eventually reveal the grand design of the cosmos.

“In my opinion, there is no aspect of reality beyond the reach of the human mind,” Hawking told El Mundo.

Space travel as life insurance

Hawking’s views carry a lot of weight in popular culture — in large part because his studies of black holes, the nature of space-time and other deep subjects have earned him a reputation as one of the smartest people on Earth.

Another part of his appeal comes from his triumph over adversity: For decades, he has been fighting against amylotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS — a neurogenerative disease that’s left him almost completely paralyzed.

He can communicate only through a computer that’s controlled by the twitches of his cheek. Despite that hardship, he continues to travel and give voice-synthesized lectures at the age of 72.

The El Mundo interview says that his doctors no longer allow him to fly — which might pose a problem for his plans to fly into space once Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital rocket plane goes into service.

But whether or not Hawking gets into outer space himself, he sees that final frontier as a life insurance policy.

“It could prevent the disappearance of humanity by colonizing other planets,” El Mundo quoted Hawking as saying.

But what about the aliens?

There’s a catch: If there are other civilizations out there, we’d better be careful not to run across the bad guys, a la “Prometheus.”

Hawking has previously warned against calling too much attention to ourselves, for fear of attracting the wrong sort of extraterrestrials.

Such a visit might well be similar to Christopher Columbus’ visit to the Americas, “which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans,” Hawking said.

But how likely is it that intelligent life exists?

Surely someone who’s skeptical about God’s existence would be skeptical about E.T.’s existence as well, right?

Not really.

During his own Starmus lecture, evolutionary biologist (and outspoken atheist) Richard Dawkins said the astronomical evidence suggests it’s “most likely” that the universe has many forms of life — although those life forms may be on “islands separated by vast distances.”

“The idea that we are alone in the universe seems to me completely implausible and arrogant,” El Mundo quoted Dawkins as saying.

Considering the number of planets and stars that we know exist, it’s extremely unlikely that we are the only form of evolved life.”

First published September 24th 2014, 1:38 am


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