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Elon Musk, AI innovators sign pledge to not develop lethal, autonomous weapons systems

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Jul 18, 2018

Anyone who's lived in fear of being murdered by some form of artificial intelligence in the same ballpark at Skynet can sleep a little easier now. Maybe. 

The 2018 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence has published a pledge signed by multiple scientists and industry leaders stating they'll stop the development of the kind of AI that can decide whether or not to end the life of a human being. 

According to The Verge, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, three co-founders of Google's Deep Mind Initiative, and Skype founder Jaan Tallinn were joined by several prominent AI researchers from all over the world in adding their names to the pledge. Together, the group serves as a kind of unofficial global coalition to oppose the implementation of potentially lethal AI technology.

The conference itself was organized by the Future of Life Institute, who had previously worked with some of the pledge signees to urge the United Nations to pass regulations limiting the use of these lethal autonomous weapons, also known as LAWS. 

While the pledge isn't exactly foolproof, MIT physics professor Max Tegmark, one of the signees, says that it signals a "shifting from talk to action" from prominent AI developers. 

At this point, the Future of Life Institute has brought about little change as a result. Part of this is due to the gray area over what does and what doesn't constitute an autonomous weapon.

Also, given the technology is already widespread, enforcing regulations now could prove to be difficult. Add to that the fact that countries currently employing the use of this tech, including the U.S. and China, don't have any much in the way of incentive to start enforcing regulations now. 

It's worth noting that this pledge isn't meant to stop the overall development of AI, but rather to encourage the development of other uses for the technology. Specifically, those that aren't designed to commit murder. And if a lifetime of consuming science fiction has taught us anything, it's that you can totally trust the word of a handful of scientists and elite billionaires. 

Still, a pledge to not develop killer AI seems better than nothing at all, right?

For those interested, you can read the full pledge, along with the complete list of signees, at the Future of Life Institute's webpage here