On a bright fall day last year off the coast of Southern California, an Air Force B-1 bomber launched an experimental missile that may herald the future of warfare.
Initially, pilots aboard the plane directed the missile, but halfway to its destination, it severed communication with its operators. Alone, without human oversight, the missile decided which of three ships to attack, dropping to just above the sea surface and striking a 260-foot unmanned freighter.
Warfare is increasingly guided by software. Today, armed drones can be operated by remote pilots peering into video screens thousands of miles from the battlefield. But now, some scientists say, arms makers have crossed into troubling territory: They are developing weapons that rely on artificial intelligence, not human instruction, to decide what to target and whom to kill.
As these weapons become smarter and nimbler, critics fear they will become increasingly difficult for humans to control — or to defend against. And while pinpoint accuracy could save civilian lives, critics fear weapons without human oversight could make war more likely, as easy as flipping a switch.
Armaments with even more advanced self-governance are on the drawing board, although the details usually are kept secret. “An autonomous weapons arms race is already taking place,” said Steve Omohundro, a physicist and artificial intelligence specialist at Self-Aware Systems, a research center in Palo Alto, Calif. “They can respond faster, more efficiently and less predictably.”
Concerned by the prospect of a robotics arms race, representatives from dozens of nations will meet on Thursday in Geneva to consider whether development of these weapons should be restricted by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
The Latest on: Autonomous weapons
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The Latest on: Autonomous weapons
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- Andrew Yang calls for global ban on killer robotson January 31, 2020 at 10:05 pm
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- Opposition bids to ban 'killer robots' foiled by Merkel's coalitionon January 31, 2020 at 12:37 pm
Opposition calls for Germany to seek an international ban on fully autonomous weapons systems have been sunk in parliament by members of Angela Merkel's coalition. The pleas came from the Greens and ...
- Andrew Yang warns against ‘slaughterbots’ and urges global ban on autonomous weaponryon January 31, 2020 at 9:31 am
The video was first released in 2017 by the Future of Life Institute’s Campaign ahead of a UN Convention on Conventional Weapons. The opens with a tech CEO-type giving a keynote address where he ...
- Autonomous microtrap for pathogenson January 30, 2020 at 11:03 am
The scientists constructed the novel multifunctional weapon to address the common medical issue that most drugs dilute in ... It works by the sequential release of chemicals from a container-like ...
- A Palantir exec described the company's secretive AI drone program as 'this generation's Manhattan Project'on January 28, 2020 at 1:38 pm
Palantir believes that its work helping drones autonomously identify targets is as important as the race to develop nuclear weapons.
- The Army Wants To Use AI To Predict Where the Next Battle Will Take Placeon January 28, 2020 at 11:28 am
program aims to operate autonomous air and ground drones throughout the battle zone, keeping a continuous watch on the enemy. The drones identify the enemy weapons systems, such as tanks or infantry ...
- Iran Conflict Shows Why the US Needs Autonomous Lethal AI Weaponson January 28, 2020 at 10:00 am
But we will in the future. To remain competitive, the U.S. military must respond and adapt to new warfare technology including weapons using AI, sometimes called killer robots. This includes ...
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