would search for and eliminate targets without human control, are called the third revolution in the battleground after gunpowder and nuclear weapons.
Such weapons would include an AI-based missile that can control its speed and altitude on its own and detect an enemy radar fence in real time while in flight. AI-equipped unmanned submarines and armed quadcopters would also be among autonomous arms.
As soon as Google announced it was acquiring the scary mechanical cheetah company Boston Dynamics, twitter exploded into a series of snarky comments about self-aware robots from a company that knows everything about you chasing after you to watch more YouTube.
Say what you will, Boston Dynamic is a fascinating company. I’ve marveled at BD’s robotics and have watched all the videos as they came out (Boing Boing has a nice collection of them) but David Pogue’s Making Stuff series on Nova has a segment which goes into a bit more detail along with an interview with the company’s founder.
The entire episode is fascinating but the Boston Dynamics segment starts at 19:30.
I wrote back in June about Autonomous Robotic Weapons and the fear that SciFi writer Daniel Suarez had that these would one day be built and what could go wrong.
Looks like it’s real.
In the recruitment video above, the Air Force invites future cadets to work with them on creating a network of autonomous quadroters that can work without human intervention.
“The objective of this project is to code a system that allows this quadroter to think and act autonomously.”
This is precisely what Daniel Suarez warned about. By designing drones that operate autonomously, you start down the road towards a world where the decision to cause war & violence are pushed away from humans. Daniel lists three powerful factors that cause this shift,
The deluge of video footage will overwhelm ability for humans to analyse so that, “drones will tell humans what to look at.”
Electromagnetic jamming by the enemy means that drones will be required to act on their own and not be piloted by humans. Drones will know their objective and react to external circumstances on their own, ignoring incoming radio signals, friendly or not.
Plausible deniability because drones are made from commodity materials that can be procured by anyone, even a criminal gang.
Suarez’s latest book, Kill Decision is about this very topic and this latest news shows that his nightmare scenario is a very real possibility.
Daniel Suarez is one of my favorite SciFi writers because he takes the technology trends happening today and draws a line into the future to warn us of what dystopian nightmare awaits if we take the humanity out of technology. I have recommended his book, Daemon to many people as a must read if you’re involved in the world of news feeds, reputation systems, and social media.
There’s now a TED talk where Daniel introduces the latest in drone technology and talks about the need to reign in the march towards automating the use of these drones in warfare. Tracing the history of weapons to the evolution of the modern nation state, he views drones as a corrosive catalyst that allows power to aggregate back to small, powerful, and ultimately anonymous organizations.