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Killer robots might be coming for us, but not if Elon Musk has his way. In a letter to the United Nations, Musk championed the cause for 116 entrepreneurs and AI experts to set guidelines for future robots that can make decisions about killing humans.

Of course, everyone went into hysterics.

The “killer robots” phrase somehow became the norm for many headlines, even though Musk was actually hoping to form a committee (called the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems).

At the same time, the letter does sound ominous:


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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. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act.

Musk seems to be on a war of his own — hoping to create a roadmap for future robotic innovations. As usual, I have a theory about why that is. I think he’s trying to get us to think about AI dangers and, at the same time, realize that AI developments are escalating quickly. He’s not saying the sky is falling. He’s saying there is major progress and that’s a good thing, but with progress there are also many ramifications.

I happen to agree with him about the need for diligence. To me, it’s too early for regulations — we’ve seen that already with drone licensing where you had to write a code on the side of your DJI and pay a $5 fee. (The ruling is no longer in effect.) Drones are not filling the sky just yet, but at some point, licensing will make sense.

At the very least, it opens up a conversation about AI, and that’s always a good thing.

Thanks for reading,
John Brandon
VentureBeat Editor

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