The autonomous killing systems of the future are already here, they're just not necessarily weapons – yet

The autonomous killing systems of the future are already here, they're just not necessarily weapons – yet
(Potentially) killer AI tech is already here, built into many less ominous sounding everyday objects. Credit: zen_warden, CC BY-NC-ND

When the discussion of "autonomous weapons systems" inevitably prompts comparisons to Terminator-esque killer robots it's perhaps little surprise that a number of significant academics, technologists, and entrepreneurs including Stephen Hawking, Noam Chomsky, Elon Musk, Demis Hassabis of Google and Apple's Steve Wozniak signed a letter calling for a ban on such systems.

The signatories wrote of the dangers of autonomous weapons becoming a widespread tool in larger conflicts, or even in "assassinations, destabilising nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group". The letter concludes:

The endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting.

It's hard to quibble with such concerns. But it's important not to reduce this to science-fiction Terminator imagery, narcissistically assuming that AI is out there to get us. The debate has more important human, political aspects that should be subjected to criticism.

The problem is that this is not the endpoint, as they write; it is the starting point. The global artificial intelligence has already begun. The most worrying dimension of which is that it doesn't always look like one. The difference between offensive and defensive systems is blurred just as it was during the Cold War – where the doctrine of the pre-emptive strike, for example, that attack is the best defence, essentially merged the two. Autonomous systems can be reprogrammed to be one or the other with relative ease.

Autonomous systems in the real world

The Planetary Skin Institute and Hewlett-Packard's Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE) project are two approaches to creating a network of intelligent remote sensing systems that would provide early warning for such events as earthquakes or tidal waves – and automatically act on that information.

Launched by NASA and Cisco Systems, the Planetary Skin Institute strives to build a platform for planetary eco-surveillance, capable of providing data for scientists but also for monitoring extreme weather, carbon stocks, actions that might break treaties, and for identifying all sorts of potential environmental risks. It's a good idea – yet the hardware and software, design and principles for these autonomous sensor systems and for autonomous weapons is essentially the same. Technology is ambivalent to its use: the internet, GPS satellites and many other systems used widely today were military in origin.

As an independent non-profit, the Planetary Skin Institute's goal is to improve lives through its technology, claiming to provide a "platform to serve as a global public good" and to work with others to develop other innovations that could help in the process. What it doesn't mention is the potential for the information it gathers to be immediately monetised, with real-time information from sensors automatically updating worldwide financial markets and triggering automatic buying and selling of shares.

The Planetary Skin Institute's system offers remote, automated sensing systems providing real-time, tele-tracking data worldwide – its slogan is "sense, predict, act" – the same sort of principle, in fact, on which an AI autonomous weapon systems would work. The letter describes AI as a "third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms", but the capacity to build such AI weapons has been around since at least 2002, when drones transitioned from remote-control aircraft to smart weapons, able to select and fire upon their own targets.

The future is now

Instead of speculating about the future, we should deal with the legacy of from the Cold War, inherited from World War II and Cold War-era complexes between university, corporate and military research and development. DARPA, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency is a legacy of the Cold War, founded in 1958 but still pursuing a very active high-risk, high-gain model for speculative research.

Research and development innovation spreads to the private sector through funding schemes and competitions, essentially the continuation of Cold War schemes through private sector development. The "security industry" is already tightly structurally tied to government policies, military planning and economic development. To consider banning AI weaponry is to point out the wider questions around political and economic systems that focus on military technologies because they are economically lucrative.

Relating the nuclear bomb to its historical context, the author EL Doctorow said: "First, the bomb was our weapon. Then it became our foreign policy. Then it became our economy." We must critically evaluate the same trio as they affect development, so that we discuss this inevitability not by obsessing on the technology but on the politics that allows and encourages it.


Explore further

No sci-fi joke: 'killer robots' strike fear into tech leaders

This story is published courtesy of The Conversation (under Creative Commons-Attribution/No derivatives).
The Conversation

Citation: The autonomous killing systems of the future are already here, they're just not necessarily weapons – yet (2015, August 4) retrieved 22 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-08-autonomous-future-theyre-necessarily-weapons.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
36 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Aug 04, 2015
The problem with a ban is that the "bad guys" break treaties anyway, and whoever has these weapons has a clear advantage in warfare.

RMQ
Aug 04, 2015
Humans love to suffer, and absolutely love cruelty...

At least the Romans had their cruelty shows at the circus. Today the rich like people begging in the streets, prisons full to the max, mutilated children without parents, and the like. Just watch the documentary of PBS on social class in America to listen upper class teenagers describing their wishes for the future. The rich needs the miserable to "enjoy" their money.

So build their toys, they are bored doing some cocaine... they need "action"

RMQ
Aug 04, 2015
Where is the global effort to teach everyone how to regulate their emotions, how to meditate, how to enhance good mood?

Where is the global race for self constructive individuals rather than the usual self destructive person?

That would reduce violence, hatred, etc.

Building more weapons? It will increase violence as they always had.

Aug 04, 2015
If you think this is no problem, go read the nonsense of those who think killing is cool, . . always one who has not served in the military, but a wannabe or a neverwas. Usually, they never learned to care for others, and still have the adolescent need for "action", not understanding there are consequences.

Aug 04, 2015
If you think this is no problem, go read the nonsense of those who think killing is cool, . . always one who has not served in the military, but a wannabe or a neverwas. Usually, they never learned to care for others, and still have the adolescent need for "action", not understanding there are consequences.
-Unlike posturers and pretenders who lie about their mil service in addition to their education and experience without giving a shit about the consequences.

Aug 04, 2015
"-Unlike posturers and pretenders who lie about their mil service in addition to their education and experience without giving a shit about the consequences."
------------------------------

Is that an accusation? Care to give us proof?

Aug 04, 2015
You claimed to design, fabricate, install, and operate a spy network directly for mcnamara while you were only a 20yo private? technician.

This is a lie.

You claimed to have heard a jet engine being tested while eikka proved to you that that engine was not being tested while you were onsite.

Another lie.

You provided ira with some evidence which you claimed proved you had certain knowledge about specific things. This evidence proved no such thing, only revealing that you were a college dropout.

More lies.

You are more than eager to provide your own proof.

Aug 04, 2015
Hey, Toots, I was a 22 year-old E-3 electronics tech when I was selected to help form, prove, deploy, and operate Igloo White. Who do you think does the work in the service? The "managers"?

Eikka knows nothing of those special engine tests on the YAT-37D, but I do, having worked on both birds.

Ira took the headline "Kamburoff Named Center Airman of the Month" to say I was invited to the Rotary Club, unable to even admit what he read.

But thanks for letting me prove who I am. Who are you? Who is the sniper who bragged about playing "games" here while cowering behind pseudonyms?

Who are you, toots?

Aug 04, 2015
You accused me of lying after I gave you military websites with my name and picture on them. You have no name or picture, and we all know why. You already admitted to being a lurker, sniper, gutless hider, playing games with the rest of us.

I opined in this thread because I am a Vietnam Vet, and one who worked on he cutting edge of our technology at the time. I am telling you to put aside your puerile emotions, and stop our lust for anonymous and/or autonomous killing. It is time you experienced some reality yourself. Maybe that would do it.

Aug 04, 2015
Hey, Toots, I was a 22 year-old E-3 electronics tech when I was selected to help form, prove, deploy, and operate Igloo White. Who do you think does the work in the service? The "managers"?
Did mcnamara choose you personally as you implied? Why would he be presonally involved in selecting untrained fetchits and gophers?
Eikka knows nothing of those special engine tests on the YAT-37D, but I do, having worked on both birds
Yeah he looked up the engine type from reliable sources and found it wasnt being tested there while you were there.

This makes you a liar.
"Kamburoff Named Center Airman of the Month"
Mechanics and lowly techs are also considered airmen are they not?

Did you see the award I received from the queen? Theres a pic of it on my profile page.

Aug 04, 2015
one who worked on he cutting edge of our technology at the time
As a lowly tech you worked on this technology in the same way that a janitor works on a nuke plant.

And a lowly tech who spends his evenings in a bangkok hotel cannot be expected to have gained any special insight into the nature of war.

This is another indication of how your stupidity, coupled with your pathologically inflated image of yourself, can lead to gross misconceptions.

And everybody can see this but you.

Aug 04, 2015
"Mechanics and lowly techs are also considered airmen are they not?"
---------------------------
Yes, . . in fact it was in my rank! Did you assume, in your ignorance, I was a pilot?

Go back to the Tee-Vee box, and get your next slice of Hollywood reality, because you ain't got a real one.

Aug 04, 2015
"Mechanics and lowly techs are also considered airmen are they not?"
---------------------------
Yes, . . in fact it was in my rank! Did you assume, in your ignorance, I was a pilot?

Go back to the Tee-Vee box, and get your next slice of Hollywood reality, because you ain't got a real one.
The point being, that your award doesnt mean you knew any more about spy systems, or the nature of war, or technology in general than any other lowly, untrained, inexperienced tech.

In reality it means absolutely nothing at all besides the possibility that you were an uncommonly good fetcher and cleaner and lugger and plugger-inner and switch-flipper and board solderer.

And everyone here can see that but you.

Did mcnamara choose you personally as you implied? Why would you believe that anyone here would fall for such ignorant bullshit?

Aug 04, 2015
From 3.4 to 2.6 and falling in just a week. Tsk tsk. So sad.

You know this means that you have been found out yet again and the people here are fed up with you.

Aug 04, 2015
I wish both of you rejects would shut the hell up, or else continue your idiotic pissing contest on something like Yahoo Messenger, instead of this site.

Aug 04, 2015
Thanks, R, but I am simply defending myself from personal attack. Stop blaming me.

Go read the nonsense. And both of you leave me unmolested.

Aug 04, 2015
What is going on with this endless procession of "AI warbots are good" articles? Even I might become a conspiracy theorist at this rate...

Aug 05, 2015
What is going on with this endless procession of "AI warbots are good" articles? Even I might become a conspiracy theorist at this rate...


I'm surprised there isn't an article about the self-aware "Synths" in the AMC television series "Humans".

Now that is impressive, and I seriously believe one day it will be a reality, as shocking as that may be.

Intel, IBM, and DARPA are all working on "True" electronic neural net technology for computers.

We can grow skin in petri dishes.

How long before we can make "Mia" or even "Leo" (he's a cyborg with half human-half synth brain). Think of the medical ramifications if you could augment stroke or ALS victims' brains and nervous systems with electronic neural nets capable of interfacing directly with their organic brains...perhaps the same way brain hemispheres currently interface.

There is so much more to do with computers and robotics technology besides making weapons.

Aug 05, 2015
In the AMC show, one of the Synths is so human-like that "she" has been working as a detective for several years, and even lives in an apartment, and seduced her partner, who actually hates Synths in general....it hadn't been revealed yet that she was a "Synth", but she seduces him and tells him something like, "I'm younger than I look," lol, afterwards she tells him, "You're my favorite person in the whole world." and plugs in for a recharge... Then he's like terrified and runs out of the apartment. Based on the ages of the other self-aware Synths, she is probably somewhere between 9 and 14 years old, but has the maturity and appearance of a late 30's woman.

She is so far the most advanced one revealed in the show, because nobody, not even the audience, could tell she was a "Synth".

I think AI like that will one day be a reality, because if the U.S. doesn't invent it for war, Japan or China or South Korea will invent it for entertainment or industrial purposes.

Aug 05, 2015
Ira took the headline "Kamburoff Named Center Airman of the Month" to say I was invited to the Rotary Club, unable to even admit what he read.


Skippy, I have been trying to let this drop for the other peoples on the physorg.

A graduate of Chowchillia Union High School in Chowchilla Calif. he accumulated approximately 50 college credits at Foothill College, Fresno City and Fresno State Colleges.


Why it don't you say you got a degree?

As a result of his selection he will receive a $25 gift certificate and a "royal weekend" at Bakersfield, the latter courtesy of that cities Chamber of Commerce.


Yeah, I know, the person who wrote the article should have put "that city's" instead of that "that cities" but he did not.

He will also be the guest of the Lancaster Rotary Club for dinner as well the recipient of a gift certificate from that organization.


Now what is it you think I got wrong Cher? It says exactly what I been saying it says.

Aug 05, 2015
P.S. for you glam-Skippy.

unable to even admit what he read.


As everybody can see now it says exactly what I been saying it says so I don't need to admit nothing but that you are a couyon.

Now let me stay out of this thing and don't accuse me of not telling the truth about your "proofs" that don't prove anything, Okayeei with you? I am trying to let this drop for the sakes of the other peoples on the physorg.

Aug 05, 2015
"Why it don't you say you got a degree?"
------------------------------

Because I did not have it yet. You stay-at-home goobers are too young to understand what happens in a war. Lots of us got our lives interrupted, unlike you coddled kids. It took ten years for me to get to school, then the war and get back to school.

Your need to bend truth to save your precious little brown-water ego brought this on you. You act like you were too stupid to see the headline in that newspaper article, but only the last paragraph. Was it an act?

Yeah, let's all stop screaming that I am a liar, shall we?

Thanks.

Aug 05, 2015
Because I did not have it yet


As far as anybody knows you still don't have it yet. Why you save a picture of your 50 year old news letter and not a picture of your degrees and diplomas?

You stay-at-home goobers are too young to understand what happens in a war.


Was not nothing in there about you doing any war stuffs, just going out on the town courtesy of the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce.

Lots of us got our lives interrupted, unlike you coddled kids. It took ten years for me to get to school, then the war and get back to school


You did not get drafted like my papa did Skippy. So you interrupted (dropped out) your college all by your self.

Your need to bend truth, You act like you were too stupid to see the headline in that newspaper article, but only the last paragraph.


First you said I only saw the headline, then you say I did not see the headline. I did not bend anything Skippy. I even typed out the exact words from it.

Aug 05, 2015
Give it up. I am real and you are just a goober hiding behind a pseudonym.

Thanks.

Why did you get on the otto bandwagon anyway? To prove your character? Well, you did that when you decided to misrepresent the information I sent you. Unable to admit I was correct, you stoop to otto-style stuff.

Let's get off this nonsense and back to the issues at hand. Your psychological troubles are boring.

Aug 05, 2015
Give it up.


I give you chances to do that Cher. You choose to drag it out.

I am real and you are just a goober hiding behind a pseudonym.


You are a real liar and not too good it either.

Thanks.


You are welcome.

Why did you get on the otto bandwagon anyway


otto-Skippy did not have anything to do with the wagon you hitched your mule to.You did that all by your self.

To prove your character?


What I got to prove to you Skippy? You seem to think I care what anybody here thinks of me, that is just not true.

you did that when you decided to misrepresent the information I sent you


You misrepresented him. I typed out the exact words.

Unable to admit I was correct


It's hard to admit you are correct when you are not being truthful Skippy.

Let's get off this nonsense and back to the issues at hand.Your psychological troubles are boring


YOU made you the issue from day one and every day since.

Aug 05, 2015
So your daddy got drafted. I enlisted.

Some of us are real patriots, others, not so much.

Aug 05, 2015
So your daddy got drafted. I enlisted.

Some of us are real patriots, others, not so much.


Ego much Skippy? My papa was wounded and life long disabled Cher, and he never felt the need to brag on it not once to this day. You are the p'tit little man and bitter nobody will believe your stolen valor tales.

Aug 05, 2015
Sorry to hear about your dad. I stole the valor of nobody. I enlisted, volunteered for the war, and served, with distinction. Grow the hell up.

Autonomous killing machines will not make anything better. They sound great to goobers, but must be banned. Why the need to kill? Why the ego-driven maladjustment?

We need AI to keep us from killing, perhaps.


Aug 06, 2015
Give it up. I am real and you are just a goober hiding behind a pseudonym
You are a real liar and a coward which you have proven many times here.

Post your degree on your website.
Some of us are real patriots, others, not so much
The scumbag george kamburoff is willing to denigrate anybody isnt he?
I enlisted, volunteered for the war, and served, with distinction
-And learned nothing except how to lie and get by.
We need AI to keep us from killing, perhaps
We need to keep you from trashing this site with lies and fabrications and pathetic stories about your ruined career and desolate personal life.
Let's get off this nonsense and back to the issues at hand
FIRST you need to come clean and clear up all the lies and fabrication that you have deposited here.

Unless you do that nobody will ever let you alone.

Aug 06, 2015
Having worked with computer-operated production systems at National Semiconductor, I understand how simple errors can make major problems. Those who have not been in the military or worked with automated systems are ignorant of this field.

They must rely on personal attack for attention.

Aug 06, 2015
Having worked with computer-operated production systems at National Semiconductor, I understand
-how to lose yet another job in 6 months or less? maybe its because you think that plugging things in and turning things on qualified you for such positions, and you were able to find a series of overworked supervisors who werent able to thoroughly check your qualifications.

All the evidence youve presented would seem to prove the case.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more