Tech Leaders Call on UN to Ban Lethal Autonomous Weapons

Leaders in robotics and founders of AI companies around the world want the United Nations to ban the development of lethal autonomous weapons, warning the intergovernmental organization “we do not have long to act.”

In a signed open letter, 116 technology luminaries spanning 26 countries urged the UN to take action before machines of war are developed to think for themselves and used against innocent people.

“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 letter reads.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk—who has frequently publicly called for the regulation of AI—and Google DeepMind’s cofounder Mustafa Suleyman are both part of the group that’s raising the alarm.

“Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close. We therefore implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers,” the letter concludes.

The UN’s recently established Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems was intended to hold its inaugural meeting today. The meeting was rescheduled for November, according to the letter after a handful of member states “failed to pay their financial contributions to the UN.”

Last February, a team of technology thought leaders, economists and philosophers—including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk—committed to 23 guiding principles that endorse developing AI for productive use, rather than destructive.