Autonomous missiles are interesting to the military, though, because they solve a tactical problem. When remote-controlled drones, for example, operate in battlefield conditions, its not uncommon for the enemy to jam the their sensors or network connections so their human operators can no longer see what’s going on or control the drone.

But Gariepy says that, instead of developing missiles or drones that can decide on their own what target to hit, the military would be better off spending its money on improved sensors and anti-jamming technology. “Why don’t we take the investment that people would like to make in building fully autonomous killer robots and bring that investment into making existing drone technology more effective?” he says. “If we face and overcome them, we can bring that technology to the benefit of people outside of the military.”

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about the dangers of artificial intelligence. Elon Musk worries about an out-of-control AI intelligence that could destroy life as we know it. Last month, Musk donated $10 million to research the ethical questions behind artificial intelligence. One important question is how AI software will affect the world when it becomes fused with robotics. Some, like Baidu researcher Andrew Ng, worry that the coming AI revolution will cost jobs. Others, like Gariepy, worry that it might cost lives.