Around 116 leading Artificial intelligence and Robotics experts, including SpaceX Chief Elon Musk, have urged the United Nations to find means to prevent an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons systems. In an open letter released by the Future of Life Institute, the group said that these “lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare.”

“As companies building the technologies in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics that may be re-purposed to develop autonomous weapons, we feel especially responsible in raising this alarm,” said the letter published on Sunday.

The group welcomed the UN’s Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons decision to establish a Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems.

“We commend the appointment of Ambassador Amandeep Singh Gill of India as chair of the GGE,” said the group in the letter. “We entreat the High Contracting Parties participating in the Group of Governmental Experts to work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies.”

The group said once these autonomous weapons are developed, they will “permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever”. “These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways,” read the letter. “We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close. We therefore implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers.”