THE RISE OF AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS

Fox News on March 21, 2016, reported on autonomous weapons that can potentially be programmed to select and engage targets on their own. Excerpts below:

Noted science fiction author Isaac Asimov famously penned the “Three Laws of Robotics,” which offered that “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”

Such rules, researchers agree, would be necessary for any “ethical robot,” but it would be up to its builder to ensure that those ethics were programmed into it.

“For the most part weapons like this don’t exist today,” Paul Scharre, senior fellow and director of the Ethical Autonomy Project at the Center for a New American Security, told FoxNews.com. “Most systems are still fire and forget and even the advanced systems are designed not to choose a target, but to correct to hit the target.”

Scharre, who presented a press note at the World Economic Forum, highlighted the fact that the laws of war do not inherently prohibit autonomous weapons…There are also technological concerns.

“Supposing that we are able to build ethical robots that follow rules of law, there is that argument that this could be a good thing,” Scharre told FoxNews.com. “Ethical machines wouldn’t commit atrocities, for example, but that could be outweighed by the concern that that we still can’t build any system that can’t be hacked.”

“We’re going to see more AI in remote systems including drones,” Michael Blades, senior industry analyst for aerospace and defense at Frost & Sullivan, told FoxNews.com. “The sensors include LIDAR, radar, video and even acoustic sensors and these are getting more advanced. It isn’t much different from what we are seeing in autonomous cars right now.”

“We’re in the early stages of an arms race, where countering efforts are now countered to ensure that remote vehicles can’t be taken over,” Blades told FoxNews.com. “Everything has encrypted data links, but the threat is still there…Hacking isn’t the only concern.

“The security on today’s remote systems is incredibly high, so it isn’t something just anyone can do,” Williams explained. “But there could be efforts to disrupt them, to jam the controls, jam the GPS or otherwise disrupt the control of an aircraft through other means.”

The first step towards truly autonomous weapons in actual use could be Israel Aerospace Industries’ Harop, a more advanced version of its Harpy system. It has been compared to a hawk in that it will circle an area and wait to strike its prey.

As a form of loitering munitions, it can be launched like a missile and flies towards a target, albeit with a human operator watching to determine whether it should strike. Its advantage is that it can loiter in the target area for up to six hours, waiting for the target to present itself. Whereas the Harpy was designed to primarily target anti-radar systems, the Harop can be used to strike at vehicles and other objects on the ground.

“This is a type of weapon that could choose its own targets by following a program,” Scharre told FoxNews.com.

At present the machine still isn’t the one taking the kill shot.

“On the one hand having the machine wait could allow for more targeted strikes to lessen collateral damage, so instead of using a Hellfire missile a smaller weapon could be used; one can wait around for the target to be out in the open,” added Blades. “And the kill shots still may not be given to a machine, at least not by anyone in the civilized world.

Comment: The banning of so called “killer robots” would weaken the security of the West and US national security. Autonomous weapons might in the future be necessary additions as a weapon for instance in the West’s war on international terrorism. A ban would be especially harmful to the United States as it is leading innovation in the AI field.

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