Tesla's Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking are among those calling for regulations to curb the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems and cyberterrorism
Scare stories have always held a particular sexiness for the media, and AI is no exception. Essentially, they take two forms: one, that a weaponised AI – particularly if harnessed by unsavoury regimes or terrorists – will unleash a wave of death and destruction; and two, that the technology itself will rapidly evolve into a “super-intelligence” far beyond the scope of humans to understand, let alone control. Ultimately, it might even decide that we are just a messy nuisance to be disposed of.
It would be tempting to dismiss both scenarios as the product of a febrile media, if it weren’t for the fact that some of the people who might be expected to be AI’s biggest cheerleaders are among the Cassandras. Take Tesla’s Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. They joined other scientists in an open letter warning of the dangers of so-called LAWS (lethal autonomous weapons systems), widely seen as an early application of AI. Russian manufacturer Kalashnikov has already announced it is developing a series of AI “combat modules” (killer robots, basically), and China and the US are working on their own LAWS programmes too.
“Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilising nations, subduing populations and...