Drones Will Soon Use Artificial Intelligence to Decide Who to Kill

Once complete, these drones will represent the ultimate militarisation of AI and trigger vast legal and ethical implications for wider society.

Drones Will Soon Use Artificial Intelligence to Decide Who to Kill lThe US Army recently announced that it is developing the first drones that can spot and target vehicles and people using artificial intelligence (AI). This is a big step forward.

Whereas current military drones are still controlled by people, this new technology will decide who to kill with almost no human involvement.

Once complete, these drones will represent the ultimate militarization of AI and trigger vast legal and ethical implications for wider society.

There is a chance that warfare will move from fighting to extermination, losing any semblance of humanity in the process.

At the same time, it could widen the sphere of warfare so that the companies, engineers and scientists building AI become valid military targets.

Existing lethal military drones like the MQ-9 Reaper are carefully controlled and piloted via satellite. If a pilot drops a bomb or fires a missile, a human sensor operator actively guides it onto the chosen target using a laser.

Ultimately, the crew has the final ethical, legal and operational responsibility for killing designated human targets. As one Reaper operator states:

“I am very much of the mindset that I would allow an insurgent, however important a target, to get away rather than take a risky shot that might kill civilians.”

Even with these drone killings, human emotions, judgments and ethics have always remained at the centre of war. The existence of mental trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among drone operators shows the psychological impact of remote killing.

Drones Will Soon Use Artificial Intelligence to Decide Who to Kill
An MQ-9 Reaper Pilot. (Photo: US Air Force)

And this actually points to one possible military and ethical argument by Ronald Arkin, in support of autonomous killing drones. Perhaps if these drones drop the bombs, psychological problems among crew members can be avoided.

The weakness in this argument is that you don’t have to be responsible for killing to be traumatised by it. Intelligence specialists and other military personnel regularly analyse graphic footage from drone strikes.

Research shows that it is possible to suffer psychological harm by frequently viewing images of extreme violence.

When I interviewed over 100 Reaper crew members for an upcoming book, every person I spoke to who conducted lethal drone strikes believed that, ultimately, it should be a human who pulls the final trigger. Take out the human and you also take out the humanity of the decision to kill.

Grave consequences

The prospect of totally autonomous drones would radically alter the complex processes and decisions behind military killings. But legal and ethical responsibility does not somehow just disappear if you remove human oversight. Instead, responsibility will increasingly fall on other people, including artificial intelligence scientists.

The legal implications of these developments are already becoming evident. Under current international humanitarian law, “dual-use” facilities – those which develop products for both civilian and military application – can be attacked in the right circumstances.

For example, in the 1999 Kosovo War, the Pancevo oil refinery was attacked because it could fuel Yugoslav tanks as well as fuel civilian cars.

Drones Will Soon Use Artificial Intelligence to Decide Who to Kill 2
An Air Force RPA reconnaissance drone is retrofitted for use in attack squadron. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

With an autonomous drone weapon system, certain lines of computer code would almost certainly be classed as dual-use. Companies like Google, its employees or its systems, could become liable to attack from an enemy state.

For example, if Google’s Project Maven image recognition AI software is incorporated into an American military autonomous drone, Google could find itself implicated in the drone “killing” business, as might every other civilian contributor to such lethal autonomous systems.

Ethically, there are even darker issues still. The whole point of the self-learning algorithms – programs that independently learn from whatever data they can collect – that technology uses is that they become better at whatever task they are given.

If a lethal autonomous drone is to get better at its job through self-learning, someone will need to decide on an acceptable stage of development – how much it still has to learn – at which it can be deployed.

In militarized machine learning, that means political, military and industry leaders will have to specify how many civilian deaths will count as acceptable as the technology is refined.

Recent experiences of autonomous AI in society should serve as a warning. Uber and Tesla’s fatal experiments with self-driving cars suggest it is pretty much guaranteed that there will be unintended autonomous drone deaths as computer bugs are ironed out.

If machines are left to decide who dies, especially on a grand scale, then what we are witnessing is extermination.

Any government or military that unleashed such forces would violate whatever values it claimed to be defending. In comparison, a drone pilot wrestling with a “kill or no kill” decision becomes the last vestige of humanity in the often inhuman business of war.

This article was amended to clarify that Uber and Tesla have both undertaken fatal experiments with self-driving cars, rather than Uber experimenting with a Tesla car as originally stated.

Find us here

Get news from the CSGLOBE in your inbox each weekday morning

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors/source and do not necessarily reflect the position of CSGLOBE or its staff.

Paid content

Top Tech Expert: The Next Trillion-Dollar Industry Will Be Built on Genetic Code

Alec Ross served as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's senior advisor for innovation. During that role, he earned unique insight into the changing...

Scientists Turn Algae into Usable Fuel

Alternative fuel: Algae could replace petroleum fuels. Scientists Turn Algae into Usable Fuel in Less than an Hour Algae has already been touted as a natural...

Human Batteries – Superhuman Evolution?

Batteries Included Can you imagine being able to charge your cell phone just by walking, or power your iPod by eating and moving your jaw?...

What's New Today

Georgia House Votes To Allow Citizens To Abolish Police Departments In The State

The Georgia House backed an effort on Friday to dissolve the Glynn County Police Department and any...

Leaked CDC document contradicts Pence claim that U.S. coronavirus cases ‘have stabilized’

Even as Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Tuesday that coronavirus...

Five bombshells about Trump from Bolton ‘s book

Excerpts from former national security adviser John Bolton ’s book about his time in the Trump administration...

Don’t Listen to Fox. Here’s What’s Really Going On in Seattle’s Protest Zone.

It seems I live in a city undergoing a “totalitarian takeover” that will lead to “fascist outcomes”...

MOST READ

What Is Agenda 21? Depopulation of 95% of the World By 2030

Most people are unaware that one of the greatest threats to their freedom may be a United Nations program which plans to depopulate 95%...

Bombs Have Been Dropped in Nevada – U.S. is Responsible

Apparently, America is now using Nevada's land to test bombs. With each passing day, the U.S. continues to follow their own personal agenda. A report did reveal...

Oklahoma High Schooler’s Carbon Discovery Elicits Wonder From Experts

Taking teenage rebellion to a new level, Oklahoma high school senior George Wang stunned teachers and fellow students when in April he co-authored a...

Top Tech Expert: The Next Trillion-Dollar Industry Will Be Built on Genetic Code

Alec Ross served as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's senior advisor for innovation. During that role, he earned unique insight into the changing...

Tesla Now Taking Orders For Solar Roof Panels That Come With An Infinity Warranty

A solar roof on your home is quite compelling, I’d say. Tech giant Elon Musk announced yesterday on Twitter that orders could begin for...

First Solar Energy Boat to Circumnavigate the Globe On Its Way

As time passes, man is starting to focus more and more on using Earth's natural resources to his advantage. Among them, solar energy and the...

Scientists discover how to turn light into matter

Turning light into matter, after 80-year quest Imperial College London physicists have discovered how to create matter from light - a feat thought impossible when...

Cliff House – living on the edge!

Now that's living on the edge! Concept house is pinned to the side of a cliff with unrivaled views of the Indian Ocean If you've...

Warning: Ebola could mutate and become airborne

Doomsday warning: UN Ebola chief raises 'nightmare' prospect that virus could mutate and become airborne - making it much more infectious The longer the Ebola...

Gangs unite to ‘take out’ cops – Baltimore PD

Gangs join forces to ‘take out’ cops, Baltimore PD alleges Baltimore police said it has credible information that street gangs have joined forces to attack...

How To Start A 1-Acre, Self-Sustaining Homestead

Expert advice on how to establish self-sufficient food production, including guidance on crop rotations, raising livestock and grazing management. Your 1-acre homestead can be...