Lethal authority will be the next step in robotic evolution
It will proliferate in military intelligence analysis, decision-making and weapon systems
IN THE PAST few weeks I have been writing about artificial intelligence (AI) and how it is reshaping our world, in particular healthcare, medicine, material science, art, robotics and nano-technology.
However, just as AI and autonomous systems development have proliferated in every day life, so too will it proliferate in military intelligence analysis, decision-making, and autonomous weapon systems.
It is quite probable that in future the country with the most intelligent machines will be the world leader or dominator. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently called AI the future of all mankind and stated that the country leading in artificial intelligence would rule the world. No wonder the US, China and Russia are heavily investing in the military use of AI.
It was during the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991 that we first became aware of the destructive power and efficacy of AI weapons. Although precision-guided munitions or “smart bombs” amounted to only 7.4 percent of all bombs dropped on Iraq, they were hugely successful with a minimum of collateral casualties.
Accelerated by the tragic events of 9/11, the arms race for AI and autonomous weapons has really taken off. In addition to unmanned drones and ground vehicles, we have recently seen the emergence of artificially intelligent and autonomous weapons with perception and decision-making capabilities.
Currently about 90 states and nonstate groups possess drones with varying degrees of autonomy, and 30 more have armed drones or programmes to develop them. Even the Islamic State is attaching bombs to small drones.
Since autonomous war machines are not limited by the physiological limits of humans, these machines are much smaller, lighter, faster, and more manoeuvrable. Their endurance is much higher and they could stay on the battlefield longer and without rest. They can take more risk and could therefore perform dangerous or even suicidal missions without risking human lives.
Intelligent machines can also handle multiple threats in a complex combat situation that is too fast for human decision-making.
But it really is the next step in robotic evolution that is of interest to the military – full autonomy. This entails moving from passive observation of enemy territory to discovering and eliminating the enemy. Of course,