Robo Wars: Existng AI Weapons Are Nothing Compared to Upcoming Unmanned Systems
Now, all you zoomers and millennials who have no idea what on earth Star Trek: The Original Series is and what went on there, you may mock us old geezers with their old toys and laughable special effects all you want, but this time the joke is on you. Because life is about to imitate art yet again, and you can’t even realize it without having watched an over-40-years old sci-fi show episode called “A Taste of Armageddon”, based on the outrageous idea about Robo Wars being waged (and their outcomes being decided) by computers. OK, one large and incredibly advanced supercomputer, but you got the gist.
Well, outrageous or not, but a thoroughly real and high-level military official – the UK’s chief of the defence staff, no less – promises us what almost amounts to robotic army forces in a very near future. According to Nick Carter, currently used – and already quite sophisticated, mind you – AI weapons, such as drones, are nothing compared to the upcoming unmanned systems, which may account for a quarter of the armed forces to come.
Not that anything is set in stone yet: Mr Carter himself admitted that any official decisions are still to be made and specific targets to be calculated, and he even dropped a cautious “who knows” into his interview to Sky News on the topic. But he insisted that material resources were already in place, and even came close to citing a date of this new era. And it’s a not too distant date, either: the chief of the defence staff apparently expects 30,000 of 120,000 future soldiers to be – and we quote here – “robots” somewhere by 2030s.
Now will the Ministry of Defence, currently considering the possibilities, give it the greenlight, is a whole different question – but, judging by how much they (and many of their counterparts in other countries) are impressed by the aforesaid drones, and by the increasing role of the latter in currently-waged wars, there is a good chance for their approval of these developments. The MoD is already conducting a so-called innovation call, assessing whether such remotely piloted aircrafts can use weapons – on top of surveillance tech – in particularly dangerous environments, and it was only to be expected that now a similar research about the AI-controlled vehicles is also on the cards.
Which, of course, brings yet another question – namely, whether such a greenlight will be a good thing. After all, those of us who did watch the above-mentioned Star Trek episode, remember how “well” it went for those computer-governed armies and their peoples. And yes, there are a lot of doubts, reservations and objections even to the existing unmanned drones we mentioned earlier on moral and ethical grounds. Moreover, such concerns are, expectedly, already raised in connection with the robotic soldiers in question: the name of one protest campaign – Campaign To Stop Killer Robots – speaks for itself. And it’s quite effective, too, considering that one such push caused Google to end its contract with the US’ military on that matter.
But then again, the alternative to the computer war that worked so successfully in “A Taste of Armageddon” was the ending of all wars on that planet. And it was achieved not by a real nuclear (or some such) Armageddon, but by a heartfelt speech by the main hero, which turned out to be enough to convince the powers-that-be, outweighing generations-long traditions and beliefs. Which is, of course, all well and good, but… yes, exactly. In our reality, we will see the robotic troops and self-controlled fighting apparatuses much sooner.
And that means, that, unethical or not, for the time being, with wars, sadly, still going on, people will continue to die in them. Which raises a counter-question to the question above: is it really this bad to try and reduce the number of these people? To create a situation where the conflicts of this nature will result in less dead bodies and more destroyed tech? After all, as opposed to how traditional weapons work, the AI-equipped ones can fight instead of human beings. So, if we can’t, by now, achieve what Captain Kirk achieved on screen and stop all the words right now, can we at least try to protect more of their participants? (On all sides, mind you: the prospect in question is drawing worldwide interest, with many states following the UK and US’ example in working on this kind of forces, and for a good reason. Again, only to be expected: today’s world is way too globalistic for a thing like this not to spread all over it). From where we stand, such an attempt is at least worth considering.
Especially if the implementation of such plans will be monitored closely. And how can it not be, taking into account the very same level of today’s globalization and amount of concern we already mentioned? There are more than enough of those willing to reign in the excessive ambition in this field and preventing the military and researchers alike from getting too carried away.
And it is, apparently, well-understood at the very top levels, too, judging, for instance, by a fairly recent paper released by American Department of Defence outlining the recommendations for “lawful and ethical” use of the subject weapons, and consisting of full 65 pages. When even the modern warlords don’t expect to be let run free with the most advanced fighting technologies to date, that’s definitely saying something.
So, color us rash and gullible, if you want, but, for want of almighty Star Trek captains around, we do see some good potential in the subject matter. It might not be all good (few real things are, if at all), but it does look worth trying to us.
- Changing your idea of what robots can do – Boston Dynamics
- Sell your electronic robot device online – iGotOffer
New Robot Makes Soldiers Obsolete [Video]
Video uploaded by Corridor on October 26, 2019