Three years ago, Elon Musk, arguably one of the smartest men on the planet, had an important warning. He equated the rapid development of AI as summoning 'the demon', and it's really not that hard to understand why. It's hard to talk about this kind of thing without name-dropping "Skynet", but is there a better example of the threat?
While Skynet was once definitively a sci-fi theory, strong AI growth over the past few years has begun to make such outcomes seem not so outrageous. It's especially scary when you think about the type of warfare equipment that's been available in the past decade, which has already been extremely "smart" as far as their capabilities go. AI will, without question, take things to the next level.
Autonomous weapon-equipped drones is becoming a worry for some
On one side of the fence, the fear is real, with campaigners saying that there's an "arms race" going on right now in the quest for building efficient autonomous weapons. On the other side of the fence, UN's Amandeep Gill claims that's not the case at all, saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have news for you: the robots are not taking over the world. Humans are still in charge."
He went on to say that, "I think we have to be careful in not emotionalising or dramatising this issue", which seems fair. However, "Humans are still in charge." doesn't really put an end to the worry when the outcome completely depends on the morals and ethics of those humans in charge. So far, 22 countries have signed on for an outright ban of autonomous "killer robots", with most jumping in being those with smaller military powers.
Anti-killer robots campaign from 2013 (Flickr: Global Panorama)
It's important to note that the autonomous aspect is the big issue here. Killer robots can technically be built, as long as they are not autonomous. Though even then, there are limits to what people are going to accept. What's truly eye-opening is the potential risk from regular humans. We've already seen proof of personal drones being used for attacking wireless networks. It's probably not outside the realm of reason to expect that in time, regular users will want to use these drones for even more nefarious purposes.
Whatever happens, the future is a little bit scarier with the reality of these capabilities, though it may still take many years to feel the full effects.