Killer robots: Experts warn of ‘third revolution in warfare’

More than 100 leading robotics experts are urging the United Nations to take action in order to prevent the development of “killer robots”.

In a letter to the organisation, artificial intelligence (AI) leaders, including billionaire Elon Musk, warn of “a third revolution in warfare”.

The letter says “lethal autonomous” technology is a “Pandora’s box”, adding that time is of the essence.

The 116 experts are calling for a ban on the use of AI in managing weaponry.

“Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter says.

“These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways,” it adds.

There is an urgent tone to the message from the technology leaders, who warn that “we do not have long to act”.

“Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”

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    Experts are calling for what they describe as “morally wrong” technology to be added to the list of weapons banned under the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

    Along with Tesla co-founder and chief executive Mr Musk, the technology leaders include Mustafa Suleyman, Google’s DeepMind co-founder.

    A UN group focusing on autonomous weaponry was scheduled to meet on Monday but the meeting has been postponed until November, according to the group’s website.

    A potential ban on the development of “killer robot” technology has previously been discussed by UN committees.

    In 2015, more than 1,000 tech experts, scientists and researchers wrote a letter warning about the dangers of autonomous weaponry.

    Among the signatories of the 2015 letter were scientist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mr Musk.

    What is a ‘killer robot’?

    A killer robot is a fully autonomous weapon that can select and engage targets without human intervention. They do not currently exist but advances in technology are bringing them closer to reality.

    Those in favour of killer robots believe the current laws of war may be sufficient to address any problems that might emerge if they are ever deployed, arguing that a moratorium, not an outright ban, should be called if this is not the case.

    However, those who oppose their use believe they are a threat to humanity and any autonomous “kill functions” should be banned.

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Elon Musk pulls Tesla and SpaceX from Facebook

Entrepreneur Elon Musk has had the official Facebook pages for his Tesla and SpaceX companies deleted.

The #deletefacebook movement has grown after data firm Cambridge Analytica was accused of obtaining the personal information of about 50 million users.

Mr Musk had poked fun at speaker brand Sonos after it said it would suspend advertising on Facebook for one week.

His followers challenged him to have his own companies’ pages deleted, which he did within minutes.

Skip Twitter post by @elonmusk

What’s Facebook?

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 23, 2018

Report

End of Twitter post by @elonmusk

Mr Musk said he “didn’t realise” that his SpaceX brand had a Facebook page. “Literally never seen it even once,” he wrote on Twitter. “Will be gone soon.”

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    Another follower pointed out his firm Tesla also had a profile on the social network.

    “Looks lame,” he replied. Both profiles disappeared within minutes of his posts.

    The pages had more than 2.5 million followers each before they were deactivated.

    In 2016, Facebook used SpaceX to launch a new communications satellite valued at more than $200m (£150m).

    However, the rocket exploded on the launch pad and destroyed the satellite.

    After a reporter tweeted that “@elonmusk blew up Mark Zuckerberg’s satellite”, Mr Musk replied: “Yeah, my fault for being an idiot. We did give them a free launch to make up for it and I think they had some insurance.”

    He said he would continue to use Facebook-owned Instagram for the time being, but lamented “FB influence is slowly creeping in”.

Elon Musk fans targeted in crypto-cash scam

Fans of entrepreneur Elon Musk have been targeted in an emerging crypto-currency scam.

The scammers pose as celebrities on Twitter and claim to be giving away crypto-cash such as Bitcoin or Ether to their fans.

They ask people to send them a small amount of crypto-currency to qualify for the giveaway, but victims do not get any bitcoins back.

Twitter has not yet removed the imposter Elon Musk account.

How does the scam work?

The scammers impersonate well-known personalities on Twitter by copying their profile pictures and choosing usernames very similar to the genuine accounts.

They then post replies to popular tweets made by the genuine celebrity. This gives their nefarious messages prominence on Twitter.

Typically, the scammers ask people to send them small amounts of crypto-currency, offering to send a larger amount back as part of a giveaway.

The scam can be convincing, because at first glance it looks like the celebrity has replied to their own tweet.

However, the fake profiles can be detected as they do not have Twitter’s “verified” badge and often have no followers and have never posted before.

Amplified by bots

On Tuesday, an account posing as Elon Musk using the username @elonmuskik tweeted that the entrepreneur was going to “give away” 3,000 Ether, worth about £1.7m.

The scam was amplified by several automated accounts known as bots.

The bots had been dormant since September 2017 and had never posted before, but came to life to chat among themselves about the supposed crypto-cash giveaway.

“Sо nice! Just sent and immediately received back. You’re super fast,” one said.

The founder of the Ethereum (ETH) crypto-currency Vitalik Buterin has been targeted by the scam so many times that he has changed his username to “No I’m not giving away ETH”.

“No, I’m not giving away ETH… y’all are getting nothing,” he tweeted.

Twitter has been criticised for taking a long time to tackle the problem of bots on its platform.

It told the BBC: “We’re aware of this form of manipulation and are proactively implementing a number of signals to prevent these types of accounts from engaging with others in a deceptive manner.”

At the time of publication, the fake Elon Musk post had been up on the platform for 11 hours and remained visible.