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Tech leaders urge UN to ban autonomous weapons

116 founders of robotics and artificial intelligence firms, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, are urging the United Nations to outlaw use of autonomous weapons. An open letter to the UN includes signatories from North America to Asia, Africa and Europe, including Mustafa Suleyman, and AI specialist at Google.

The letter was released at an artificial intelligence conference in Melbourne, Australia, ahead of a United Nations meeting of government experts on autonomous weapons, CNN reported. Toby Walsh, an Australia-based professor who contributed to the letter, said a UN ban on autonomous weapons should be implemented similar to the one on chemical weapons.

The letter warns, "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." It adds, "These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways."

The first to sign the letter, Clearpath Robotics founder Ryan Garipy, said, "Unlike other potential manifestations of AI, which still remain in the realm of science fiction, autonomous weapons systems are on the cusp of development right now and have a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability."

The United States, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia and the United Kingdom are among countries that are developing autonomous weapons, according to Human Rights Watch. There are concerns that human involvement in using weapons will slowly become obsolete, until they are no longer involved, and the machine ultimately "takes over these critical functions."

Elon Musk has often warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence, claiming it's "potentially more dangerous than nukes." With tensions rising between the United States and North Korea, Musk recently said AI poses "vastly more risk" than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's nuclear regime.