As support grew last week for a ban on killer robots during the first formal United Nations talks about imposing limits on lethal autonomous weapons systems, artificial intelligence experts and advocacy groups released a viral video depicting what a future could look like with small and affordable drones that murder targets without any meaningful human control.
"This short film is more than just speculation; it shows the results of integrating and miniaturizing technologies that we already have," warns Stuart Russell, a computer science professor at UC Berkeley, near the end of the video.
AI's "potential to benefit humanity is enormous, even in defense, but allowing machines to choose to kill humans will be devastating to our security and freedom. Thousands of my fellow researchers agree," Russell continues. "But the window to act is closing fast."
The film was created to raise support for a global ban on killer robots, which has developed out of urgent warnings from human rights organizations, advocacy groups, military leaders, lawmakers, tech experts, and engineers, including Stephen Hawking and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Russell and the Future of Life Institute screened the video in Geneva, Switzerland last week at an event hosted by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, in an effort to increase pressure on the group of governmental experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems who were gathered for a week-long meeting organized by the U.N. Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).
When the talks concluded Friday, representatives established a final report calling for future discussions about the mounting threat of killer robots. Campaign for Killer Robots expressed disappointment with the report, but celebrated new support for banning these types of weapons. During the talks, three countries—Brazil, Iraq, and Uganda—joined the list (pdf) of 22 nations that are demanding an outright ban.