The problem with Musk's proposed ban, as always, is in the implementation. Lethal autonomous weapons in some shape or form are coming. Take drones for example. Militaries, rebels, and terrorists have taken to drones to push the boundaries of warfare. Groups who don't have access to military drones simply buy commercial drones and add bombs to them. The same thing will happen once robots become commonplace. People who want to turn them into weapons, absolutely will.
Technology doesn't stop advancing just because we want it to. Experts say it's more important to create an ethical framework to figure out when we can and cannot use these new weapons. Nuclear weapons won't go away but the ethics of using those weapons severely limit how people can deploy them. But by clearly defining how these weapons can and should be used, the world can keep a lid on out of control destruction.
Evan Ackerman at IEEE Spectrum argues killer robots might be better than humans at minimizing death and destruction. Unlike humans, robots don't get scared or panic. It would be theoretically possible for robots to be given stricter rules of engagement, which the robot would follow because it's a robot, and limit the scope of targets in a conflict area.
Experts say the world needs an international framework to ban the use of killer robots before it's too late. Once the systems are out in the wild, Pandora's box will be open forever. Weapons which can autonomously decide whether or not to kill will fundamentally change warfare. Science fiction has done a great job of imagining the horrors. What matters now is whether or not we'll let it become a reality.
Musk and the 116 other founders worry a news arms race will begin to create killer robots. If human history is any indicator, we'll find new and novel ways to destroy each other once that door is open. But it doesn't have to be that way. Following World War I, countries came together to ban the use of chemical and biological weapons. It is possible to ban the worst weapons of war.
Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.