Estonian engineer Jaan Tallinn, known as one of the founders of Skype, has issued a warning that the world may soon be caught in an artificial intelligence (AI) arms race. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Tallinn expressed concerns that anyone with enough resources could create AI robots without being traceable, potentially leading to a world where it is no longer safe to be outside due to the threat of being chased down by “swarms of slaughterbots.” While figures like Bill Gates see AI as a catalyst for a new Industrial Revolution, Tallinn believes that it comes with significant risks which must be addressed.
Tallinn’s fears are based on the idea that humans are in control of the planet due to their substantial intelligence. If this advantage is yielded to machines, it could spell trouble. He cited a survey that revealed pedestrians had more awareness of AI’s risks compared to scientists. The engineer also expressed concerns over the testing of AI systems by armed forces, particularly in military contexts. He cautioned that the inclusion of AI in the military would make it difficult for humans to control its trajectory, potentially sparking an actual arms race. Autonomous drones, in particular, pose a considerable threat, as Tallinn warned that swarms of them could be produced and released by anyone with sufficient financial resources.
Efforts to prevent an AI arms race are already underway. The United States recently hosted a Senate hearing with ChatGPT CEO Sam Altman, focusing on the regulation of AI. The private and public sectors agreed on the need for regulations, while the G7 countries also committed to establishing rules for the development and use of AI. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen highlighted the potential benefits of AI but stressed the importance of implementing protective measures reflective of democratic values.
Tallinn believes that it is not necessary to halt AI development altogether. Instead, he emphasizes the need to prevent militaries from exploring AI applications and to establish safeguards to rein in the negative impacts of this technology. By taking appropriate precautions, Tallinn believes humanity can maintain control and ensure a positive future.