The problem with a nuclear bomb is that it wipes out everything within its blast radius, then renders the land uninhabitable with radiation. Mass murdered Stephen Paddock sprayed a crowd with automatic fire, indiscriminately killing whomever he could get. But what if there was a way to quickly, easily, surgically kill just certain groups of people within a larger crowd?
Let's say, for instance, that you wanted to murder just a portion of a college classroom--only the students that hold certain political views. Well, here's how you can do that using existing technology:
The implications are terrifying; there is no hiding from these things. They can work together to breach a building. They make everything from nuclear weapons to highly trained snipers obsolete. There doesn't seem to be any effective way to defend against them.
Which is precisely the point being made by Stuart Russell, a professor of Computer Science and Engineering at UC Berkely. Russell, an AI expert, produced this video with the Future of Life Institute, a volunteer think-tank that tries to figure out how to keep humanity from wiping ourselves off of the planet.
The video was screened at the United Nations' Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva, Switzerland last week, and the hope was that this would wake international lawmakers up to the dangers of automated weaponry. Sadly, the warning appears to be falling on deaf ears. According to the Guardian, Amandeep Gill, India's Disarmament Ambassador, "underscored that banning killer robots, or even agreement on rules, remained a distant prospect."
"Countries do not have time … to waste just talking about this subject," Mary Wareham of the arms division at Human Rights Watch told AFP.
She said that "militaries around the world and defence companies are sinking a lot of money" into weapons that select and destroy targets without human control.
Once this gets out, it's out.
It's scary to think that we'll look back nostalgically at a time when terrorists rented vehicles to simply run people over, a few at a time.
"If this isn't what you want," says the video description, "please take action at http://autonomousweapons.org/."