Killer robots: expert warns against terrifying machines with 'abhorrent' prejudices as scientists call for global ban

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robotics expert has backed calls for the United Nations to ban the development of “killer robots.”

More than 115 scientists, including billionaire Elon Musk, sent a letter to the UN warning that the creation of AI-controlled robots with the ability to use weapons would spark “a third revolution in warfare”.

The letter claimed that the devices “will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever” and said “these can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”

London-based expert and journalist Chris Middleton told the Standard that he “very much agreed” with the scientists’ views.

He said: “They are right to see this as a serious issue.

Tech experts have called for the creation of ‘killer robots’ to be banned (Shutterstock)

“The question here is ‘is it ever right to have a human life taken at the hands of a machine?’ and the answer is ‘no’.

“This is a question of human rights but it becomes difficult when you break down the different approaches to human rights, locally. 

“In many places homosexuality is banned, renouncing your religion is a punishable offence – if you introduce robots with guns who have been introduced to these ideas it becomes a very serious issue.”

Speaking out: Elon Musk backed calls for the bots to be banned (AFP/Getty Images)

Mr Middleton spoke of the introduction of “robocops” in Dubai, America and China.

In all three countries bots designed to pick up on offences have been trained by local police forces.

Dubai’s unarmed robot police officers were introduced in a bid to fight crime in busy areas in 2015. 

If the trial is successful Dubai Police says it wants robots to make up 25 per cent of its police force by 2030.

The future of robots

In China, Anbot riot-control bots are trained to issue electric shocks to humans while in Washington K5 bots have been introduced as security guards in shopping centres.

He said: “There is no basis for assuming that future AI police officers or applications will implement a form of blank, globalised machine intelligence without bias or favour. 

“It is far more likely that they will reflect the cultures in which they operate and enforce the legal systems of their host countries, just as human police do.

“Now factor in robot police or AI applications enforcing local laws that some other cultures find abhorrent. The potential is clearly there for technology to be programmed to act against globally stated human rights.” 

A UN group set to discuss autonomous weaponry was scheduled to meet on Monday but the meeting has been postponed until November, according to the group’s website.

A potential ban on the development of “killer robot” technology has previously been discussed by UN committees.

In 2015, more than 1,000 tech experts, scientists and researchers wrote a letter warning about the dangers of autonomous weaponry.

Scientist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mr Musk were among those who backed the claims.

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