Hawking, Musk and others call for a ban on autonomous weapons

A Predator drone carrying a missile

If you don't like the thought of autonomous robots brandishing weapons, you're far from alone. A slew of researchers and tech dignitaries (including Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Steve Wozniak) have backed an open letter calling for a ban on any robotic weapon where there's no human input involved. They're concerned that there could be an "AI arms race" which makes it all too easy to not only build robotic armies, but conduct particularly heinous acts like assassinations, authoritarian oppression, terrorism and genocide. Moreover, these killing machines could give artificial intelligence a bad name. You don't want people to dismiss the potentially life-saving benefits of robotic technology just because it's associated with death and destruction, after all.

There's nothing legally binding in the letter, but it lends weight to the United Nations' preliminary talk of a global ban on deadly automatons. If officials, academia and the tech industry are all against removing humans from the equation, it's that much more likely that there will be rules forbidding lethal bots. While that doesn't preclude rogue nations and less-than-ethical companies from forging ahead with their own equipment, you might not see a world full of AI-driven warriors.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini]