I’m getting the impression that many of our readers are growing very tired of constantly having to worry about the current pandemic, the next pandemic, an impending alien invasion, the murder hornets or, God forbid, a Joe Biden presidency. So in the interest of shoving all of that off of the front page for a little while, how about something to take your mind off all of those things? Something like… killer robots, perhaps?
That’s been on the minds of the folks at Human Rights Watch this year. Sure, they spend a lot of their time thinking about global warming, but they see the killer robots as a serious threat to humanity’s future also. So much so, in fact, that they have started an initiative to get all the industrialized nations fo the world to sign on to a treaty banning the development of fully autonomous weapons.” Of course, given how well the whole Paris Accord thing worked out, I’m not holding my breath for this one to do much better. (NY Post)
For decades, robot thrillers such as “The Terminator,” “Blade Runner” and “Westworld” have warned viewers that our reliance on artificial intelligence is a real threat to civilization. Now, real-life researchers with the Human Rights Watch are sounding the alarm on potentially world-ending “killer robots,” according to a new report.
The message comes as part of their Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which calls for a global ban on “fully autonomous weapons.”
“Removing human control from the use of force is now widely regarded as a grave threat to humanity that, like climate change, deserves urgent multilateral action,” said Mary Wareham, advocacy director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, in a press release on HRW.org, whose campaign is pushing for “an international ban treaty” on AI-operated weapons.
Given how much time I spend here harping on the coming robot revolution when the Artificial Intelligence wakes up, it would be fairly hypocritical of me to simply brush off the concerns of Human Rights Watch in this instance. This isn’t a new topic as most of you know, and plenty of great thinkers have long been concerned over just how wrong things could go when you start mixing military-grade hardware with Artificial Intelligence without a human hand being available to intervene between the two. So I’m not going to laugh this proposal off entirely.
But at the same time, there are problems with it. As I alluded to above, any form of “global treaty” is going to raise concerns as long as there’s one country not willing to go along with it. Or even worse, one country that says the will abide by the agreement but keeps on working on such systems in secret without adequate verification protocols in place. If that apple is hanging from the tree, you know somebody is going to pick it sooner or later.
And that’s the other problem with this plan. HRW may be worried about the arrival of killer robots, but the fact is that they’re already here and they’ve been here for a while. It’s been a couple of decades now since the United States commissioned the Arleigh Burke-class of guided missile destroyers with the Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Combat System installed. Those ships were built in such a way that even if the entire crew were to be killed off by radiation or whatever else during combat, the ship could identify enemy ships, aircraft, or subs on its own and attack them with multiple weapons systems. Trust me, it had plenty of people nervous when it first rolled out.
More recently, the Russians premiered a new class of autonomous, armed robots with muscular AI built into them. They can be remotely controlled by a human, but they can also be put into automatic mode to seek out targets on their own. And they’re already guarding five of their ballistic missile installations. The Israelis have the Harpy missile that can stay airborne for nine hours and pick out targets by itself. And back here in the United States, we’re supposed to have the X-47B drone in full service in two years. Much like the Russian tech, we can have a pilot control it remotely, but if the connection is cut, the X-47B can go forth and hunt on its own, deciding on which targets to strike without human intervention.
So HRW may be expressing valid concerns here, but I’m afraid that horse has already left the barn and has long since faded out of sight. The killer robots are here, folks. Now we’re just waiting to find out if the Artificial Intelligence is actually capable of “waking up” or if that’s just a fantasy. And until a robot is proven to have come up with a completely original thought, truly autonomous AI will remain a fantasy… right up until the microsecond when it isn’t anymore.