"All countries must agree that any decision on nuclear use is made by humans, not machines or algorithms."

Please Please Please

The head of the United Nations is begging world leaders to please, for all that is good, not to use artificial intelligence to control their nuclear arsenals.

In a recorded address played at the US Arms Control Association's annual meeting in Washington last week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres made an impassioned plea not just for nuclear disarmament, but for binding promises not to use AI to control weaponry — which, let's face it, seems like a pretty obvious rule.

"Humanity is on a knife's edge, the risk of a nuclear weapon being used has reached heights not seen since the Cold War," Guterres warned. "States are engaged in a qualitative arms race. Technologies like artificial intelligence are multiplying the danger."

"Nuclear blackmail has reemerged," he continued, "with some recklessly threatening nuclear catastrophe."

Armed and Ready

As The Guardian notes, the secretary-general's remarks were issued 600 days ahead of the expiration of the 2010 New Start treaty, the final arms agreement between Russia and the United States limiting and reducing each country's strategic arms capabilities. In the more than 14 years since it was signed, Russia has repeatedly threatened nuclear war and resisted treaty-imposed inspections — and with it expiring in less than two years, those threats are becoming all the more unsettling.

Indeed, during his address, Guterres pointed out that "the regime designed to prevent the use, testing and proliferation of nuclear weapons is weakening" and later implored both countries to "get back to the negotiating table, fully implement the New START treaty and agree on its successor."

"Until these weapons are eliminated," the secretary-general declared, "all countries must agree that any decision on nuclear use is made by humans, not machines or algorithms."

Guterres' statement, as The Guardian explains, is the UN's most strident to date on AI and represents something of a departure from the UN's previous stance. Earlier this year, the international governmental organization adopted a resolution promoting the "safe, secure and trustworthy" use of the burgeoning technology. And less than a week ago, the body hosted a summit in Geneva literally called "AI for Global Good" in which one of its tech officials claimed that AI is saving lives.

While not a call for an outright ban on AI in nuclear arsenals — which, curiously enough, some members of the US Congress have been advocating for — this UN statement signals that the body is taking the technology seriously and urging its members to do the same.

Whether they'll heed that call, however, remains to be seen.

More on AI weaponry: Palantir's Military AI Tech Conference Sounds Absolutely Terrifying

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