Perhaps the most nightmarish, dystopian film of 2017 didn’t come from Hollywood. Autonomous weapons critics, led by a college professor, put together a horror show.
It’s a seven-minute video, a collaboration between University of California-Berkeley professor Stuart Russell and the Future of Life Institute that shows a future in which palm-sized, autonomous drones use facial recognition technology and on-board explosives to commit untraceable massacres.
The film is the researchers’ latest attempt to build support for a global ban on autonomous weapon systems, which kill without meaningful human control.
They released the video to coincide with meetings the United Nations’ Convention on Conventional Weapons is holding this week in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss autonomous weapons.
“We have an opportunity to prevent the future you just saw, but the window to act is closing fast,” said Russell, an artificial intelligence professor, at the film’s conclusion. “Allowing machines to choose to kill humans will be devastating to our security and freedom.”
In the film, thousands of college students are killed in attacks at a dozen universities after drones swarm campuses. Some of the drones first attach to buildings, blowing holes in walls so other drones can enter and hunt down specific students. A similar scene is shown at the U.S. Capitol, where a select group of Senators were killed.
Such atrocities aren’t possible today, but given the trajectory of tech’s development, that will change in the future. The researchers warn that several powerful nations are moving toward autonomous weapons, and if one nation deploys such weapons, it may trigger a global arms race to keep up.