The most vivid and pedagogically useful explanation of the near-term dangers implied by the development of AI technology for military drones that I know of has been the famous Slaughterbots video, produced in 2017 by the Future of Life Institute and featuring leading AI safety researcher Stuart Russell. I've been showing it to my students every year since 2018, along with proclamations such as ''Potential dangers in AI lurk everywhere, but if I were to single out one application area as the absolutely most reckless one as a playground for development of cutting-edge AI technology, I'd say killer robots''.
Just this week, two event have come to my attention that cause me to update on this and perhaps modify my lectures slightly:
1. A large part of the Slaughterbots video is a fictional promotion event for a new autonomous killer drone product. But why stick to fiction when we can have the real thing? The Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems has released a promotion video for their latest lethal AI product. Their tone and content are reminiscent the Slaughterbots video but without any hint of irony or admission that AI technology for killing people could be dangerous or bad. Here's what we get when reality imitates fiction:
2. Facebook's (or Meta as they now call themselves) AI lab just announced how they built an AI that performs on (at least) human level at the game of Diplomacy. Given the role of Bostrom's treacherous turn concept and related deception problems (as outlined in the recent very important report by Ajeya Cotra) in exacerbating AI existential risk, I should perhaps consider modifying the proclamation above to something like ''Potential dangers in AI lurk everywhere, but if I were to single out one application area as the absolutely most reckless one as a playground for development of cutting-edge AI technology, I'd say games where the winning moves consist of manipulating human opponents into acting in your interest and then stabbing their back''.