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Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking Warn Killer Robots Could Destroy Humanity As We Know It

(CBS SF) -- From self-driving cars to mobile personal assistants, the conveniences of technology seamlessly fold into our everyday lives -- which is why three luminaries are warning humanity: beware of the killer robots.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and physicist Stephen Hawking addressed the potential dangers that come when Artificial Intelligence (AI) goes unchecked, especially in fighting future wars.

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The trio, along with a group of AI researchers focused on the the risks of autonomous technology, presented a letter Monday calling for the prevention of a military arms race using AI systems.

While a Terminator-style apocalypse may seem far-fetched, the petition penned by the Future of Life Institute argues AI technology has reached a point where using autonomous weapons, like drones that kill using a facial-recognition algorithm, are feasible within years -- and the stakes are high.

"If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow," the letter says. "Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group."

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Wozniak voiced these concerns in an interview with the Australian Financial Review in March. "Computers are going to take over from humans, no question," he told the publication.

Hawking has also warned of the dangers of autonomous weapons telling the BBC that "the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race."

Nicole Jones is a digital producer for CBS San Francisco. Follow her musings @nicjonestweets

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