July 18 (UPI) -- Thousands of artificial intelligence experts from around the world vowed Wednesday to play no role in creating autonomous weapons.
An online letter signed by more than 2,400 researchers from 170 organizations called for a global ban of the weapons, which they say pose a grave threat to humanity and have no place in the world.
Independent from the pledge, 26 countries in the United Nations also endorsed the call for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems, according to the Future of Life Institute (FLI), a group created to safeguard life and develop optimistic visions of the future.
"The decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine," the letter said. "There is a moral component to this position, that we should not allow machines to make life-taking decisions for which others -- or nobody -- will be culpable."
The letter said lethal autonomous weapons have characteristics quite different from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
"The unilateral actions of a single group could too easily spark an arms race that the international community lacks the technical tools and global governance systems to manage," the letter said. "Stigmatizing and preventing such an arms race should be a high priority for national and global security."
The pledge was signed at the 2018 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Stockholm, Sweden. Supporters of the pledge include Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, and representatives of Google's DeepMind subsidiary.
Max Tegmark, president of FLI, said he is "excited to see AI leaders shifting from talk to action, implementing a policy that politicians have thus far failed to put into effect."
"AI has huge potential to help the world -- if we stigmatize and prevent its abuse. AI weapons that autonomously decide to kill people are as disgusting and destabilizing as bioweapons and should be dealt with in the same way," Tegmark said.