A nuclear war that threatens to wipe out humanity could be brought about by artificial intelligence (AI) as early as 2040, according to security experts.
The Rand corporation, a not for profit security think tank based in the US, warned that computers by "mistake or malice" could lead to mankind's untimely end.
It argues in a report released yesterday that technological advances could lead to "doomsday AI" – machines that could encourage world leaders to take major risks with their nuclear arsenal.
During the cold war the value of "mutually assured destruction (mad)" stopped world powers firing nuclear weapons, as to do so would lead to a devastating retaliation.
But according to RAND, improved AI as well as more sensor and open source data could convince countries that their opponents' nuclear capabilities are vulnerable, leading them to take drastic action.
Researchers drew up their speculative conclusions about the Doomsday day scenario through interviews with unnamed experts in security, nuclear weapons and AI.
"This isn't just a movie scenario," said Andrew Lohn an engineer at RAND and co-author of the paper. "Things that are relatively simple can raise tensions and lead us to some dangerous places if we are not careful."
Some experts fear that an increased reliance on artificial intelligence can lead to new types of catastrophic mistakes.
There may be pressure to use AI before it is technologically mature, or it may be susceptible to adversarial subversion.
Therefore, maintaining strategic stability in coming decades may prove extremely difficult and all nuclear powers must participate in the cultivation of institutions to help limit nuclear risk.