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The UN has decided to tackle the issue of killer robots in 2017

Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak called on the United Nations last year to ban lethal autonomous weapons.

US Mititary Robot Mission Getty

The United Nations decided to formally address the issue of killer robots.

At the International Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva, the 123 participating nations voted to form a group in 2017 of governmental experts to look at lethal autonomous robots that can select targets without human control, which could lead to a ban, reported Human Rights Watch.

Many of Silicon Valley’s elite, including Steve Wozniak and Elon Musk, have expressed concern over the development of killer robots. Musk and Wozniak both signed on to a letter last year urging the UN to take up the issue, calling for an international ban on the creation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Stephen Hawking and leading AI researchers — including University of California Berkeley computer scientist Stuart Russell, Google Director of Research Peter Norvig and Microsoft Managing Director Eric Horvitz — were among the over 1,000 scientists who signed the letter calling for a killer robot ban.

Although this summer China boasted that it was adding artificial intellegence to cruise missiles, the nation said in Geneva that it too sees value in a new international forum on lethal autonomous robotics, according to Human Rights Watch

Nineteen nations even called for a global ban on killer robots, including Argentina, Peru Pakistan, Cuba and Egypt. In 2014, only five countries supported such measures.

Musk has been particularly vocal about his fear of deadly robotics, warning that artificial intelligence is “our biggest existential threat” and “potentially more dangerous than nukes.” Hawking said in 2014 that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Musk acted on his concerns late last year and, with help from Sam Altman of Y Combinator and backing from Peter Thiel, started a nonprofit called OpenAI to promote artificial intelligence that helps rather than hurts humanity.

The UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions, the UN official who investigates and responds to extrajudicial killings around the world, said in 2014 that weaponized robots would necessitate new international rules for the use of force, but today’s decision to create a formal expert group marks what may be the most decisive action taken thus far.

Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill from India will head the killer robots initiative in 2017.

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