The world must act quickly to avert a future in which autonomous robots with artificial intelligence roam the battlefields killing humans, scientists and arms experts warned at an elite gathering in the Swiss Alps.

Rules must be agreed to prevent the development of such weapons, they said at a Jan. 19-23 meeting of billionaires, scientists and political leaders in the snow-covered ski resort of Davos.

Angela Kane, the German U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs from 2012-2015, said the world had been slow to take pre-emptive measures to protect humanity from the lethal technology.

“It may be too late,” she told a debate in Davos.

“There are many countries and many representatives in the international community that really do not understand what is involved. This development is something that is limited to a certain number of advanced countries,” Kane said.

The deployment of autonomous weapons would represent a dangerous new era in warfare, scientists said.

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