Autonomous "Slaughterbots" Could Soon Be Used By Drug Cartels, Warns MIT Professor

Governments need to act immediately to stop it, Professor Max Tegmark said. Image Credit: Kletr/Shutterstock.com

In a recent interview with The Next Web, MIT Professor and founder of the Future of Life Institute Max Tegmark has made some dire predictions about the future uses of militarized robots, and the ideas paint a grim picture of future warfare. Talking about small, weaponized, autonomous drones and robots, Tegmark suggests that once "slaughterbots" are fully developed by the military, it is only a matter of time before civilians can get their hands on them, as they do with so many other weapons. In the wrong hands – such as drug cartels – these bots will open a gateway of cheap and almost unstoppable targeted assassinations onto whoever they choose, he said, adding that governments need to step in now before that dystopian scenario becomes reality. 

“If you can buy slaughterbots for the same price as an AK-47, that’s much preferable for drug cartels, because you’re not going to get caught anymore when you kill someone,” said Tegmark, talking to TNW. 

“It’s also much more effective for penetrating defenses. Even if a judge has lots of bodyguards, you can fly in through a bedroom window while they’re sleeping and kill them… And it’s going to go far beyond that. Because pretty soon anyone who wants to knock off anyone for any reason will be able to do this.” 

Unfortunately, world leaders do not see eye-to-eye with the use of automated killer robots. In a Geneva meeting last week, The United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons held a debate on whether autonomous weapons without substantial human control should be banned, and failed to reach a consensus. Instead, they simply agreed to "continue talks".  

Such talks have now been ongoing for eight years, but the pressure has mounted since an autonomous weaponized drone hunted down and possibly killed humans in the first attack of its kind last March. The subsequent report suggested that during ‘Operation PEACE STORM’ (ironic, we know), a drone identified and engaged a human target, diving at them and detonating onboard explosives. Imagining such weapons in the hands of civilians, it is not hard to see why Tegmark is afraid of the future of automated robots. 

“The biggest losers from this are going to be countries that are militarily dominant, because these weapons are incredibly cheap,” Tegmark continued. 

“They’ll be small, cheap and light like smartphones, and incredibly versatile and powerful. It’s clearly not in the national security interest of these countries to legalize super-powerful weapons of mass destruction.” 

For now, the UN will reconvene and continue talks in the area, in the hopes of reaching an agreement. 

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