Stephen Hawking has joined other technology experts such as PayPal’s Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in calling for a ban on ‘offensive autonomous weapons’ - robot killing machines.
Professor Hawking and 1,000 other colleagues signed a letter presented at the opening of the 2015 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The letter suggested that robotic killing machines similar to the drones used today could drive a ‘third revolution in warfare’.
‘Autonomous weapons select and engage targets without human intervention,’ the letter said.
Current drone systems will not shoot at targets without human intervention - but tech experts fear that governments will create new robot weapons which can act of their own accord.
‘Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.
‘Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilising nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group.
‘If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.’