Leaders of European artificial intelligence and robotics firms are among over 100 signatories to a letter to the United Nations calling for action to prevent the development of 'killer robots'.
In the letter to the organisation, AI leaders, including billionaire Elon Musk, warn of 'a third revolution in warfare'. AI is already getting a bad press in some quarters as a result of predictions that large numbers of jobs will disappear as a result of robots taking people's jobs.
The UN letter claims the human race now faces a rather more serious threat: being wiped out by lethal autonomous robots used in warfare. The letter says the world is now facing a 'Pandora's Box'.
AI leaders state, 'As companies building the technologies in artificial intelligence and robotics that may be re-purposed to develop autonomous weapons, we feel especially responsible in raising this alarm.
'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 time-scales 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'.
The many European technology leaders signing the letter include Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of Google's AI company DeepMind, headquartered in the UK. In 2015, in another letter, over 1,000 technology experts warned about the dangers of autonomous weaponry, including scientist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and, again, Elon Musk.