UC Berkeley professor helps create viral video to warn about killer robots

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- A U.C. Berkeley professor is the driving force behind a scary new killer robot video that already has more than four million online views. The video is a serious effort by computer scientists to show the danger of a future with autonomous weapons that operate without human control. Many experts say the technology is coming soon, and they are urging the United Nations to take action.

RELATED: Disturbing simulation shows power, terror of killer robots

The seven minute video features a dramatic story about tiny drones that are programmed to kill and require no human guidance. In the fictitious story, the technology was developed for good, but is taken over by unknown forces that launch mass killings.

The video was conceived by U.C. Berkeley professor Stuart Russell, a top expert on artificial intelligence. A production studio called Space Digital actually created the final product. Russell and hundreds of other scientists and tech leaders are pushing for an international ban on what many call "killer robots."

Russell was in Geneva this week when the video was shown to United Nations delegates attending a conference about autonomous weapons.

"We wanted to show visually what we were talking about, what it means for autonomous weapons to be weapons of mass destruction" Russell said. He also wants people to understand autonomous weapons attacks could be hard to trace and we might have no idea who our attackers even are.

Russell says the autonomous weapons dramatized in the video could actually be made now by combining and miniaturizing technology that already exists. The frightening next step would be to mass produce them so thousands could be used at once to kill a lot of people fast - with no direct human control.

WARNING: The full video above is a simulation but is graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers.
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What would you do if an army of drones opened fire on you? This terrifying simulation video is making the rounds on social media and prompting conversation on mass shootings, war, and how we can protect ourselves in situations of terror.

We showed the video to Gloria Duffy, president of the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco and a former Defense Department official. Duffy called it "shocking" and "a powerful way of teaching people what the implications of these technologies might be."

She added, "There are clearly moral and ethical issues here, issues of weapons that are being developed potentially for the good guys - being used by the bad guys."

The video was paid for by the Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit funded in part by Tesla's Elon Musk. Musk is heavily involved in artificial intelligence for self-driving cars, but he's repeatedly warned about artificial intelligence used for weapons.

The last words on the video are from Professor Russell: " We have an opportunity to prevent the future you just saw, but the window to act is closing fast." He urges people to go to autonomousweapons.org to find out more.

More than seventy countries attended the United Nations conference on autonomous weapons this week - but there was no concrete action.

Click here to learn more about the Autonomous Weapons project.

Click here to view the video on Youtube.

Written and Produced by Jennifer Olney
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