Military robots: Who’s going to call the shots?

There’s a debate being waged within the upper echelons of our government as to whether or not and/or to what extent, America’s military forces should retain control on that ultimate aspect of waging war: taking human life. Through advances in Artificial Intelligence, armed robots are becoming so effective that they are now fully capable of autonomous, deadly combat according to multiple sources. That venerable Russian arms manufacturer, Kalashnikov, a company which has probably accounted for more gunshot deaths than any other arms manufacturer in history, with its series of AK rifles, most notably, the AK-47, has announced its plans to unveil such a fully autonomous robotic weapon system at their upcoming Army-2017 show.

Meanwhile, Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs, General Paul Selva, recently testified to Congress that we must never give AI robotic systems such full control over taking human life lest we lose contol of them and create uncontrollable killing machines. So what do we do? Do we allow our enemies to gain the battle advantage by restricting ourselves with rules of engagement similar to those that have so often hamstrung our forces in the past? Or do we loose these digital dogs of war to roam and fight, unimpeded by human masters? Must our binary beasts fight muzzled by microprocessors awaiting digital approval from human controllers while a free ranging robotic enemy force ravages the battle area unconcerned with such moral niceties as inflicting collateral damages or covering behind human shields?

And it’s not like we have decades to decide this thing; as the Russian announcement makes clear, robotic combat is upon us and if the Russians can actually back up their boast of putting a fully autonomous robotic fighting machine on the battlefield in the next year or so, we’d best have a national discussion soon to develop a national policy to determine:

Who will, quite literally, call the shots?

There’s a debate being waged within the upper echelons of our government as to whether or not and/or to what extent, America’s military forces should retain control on that ultimate aspect of waging war: taking human life. Through advances in Artificial Intelligence, armed robots are becoming so effective that they are now fully capable of autonomous, deadly combat according to multiple sources. That venerable Russian arms manufacturer, Kalashnikov, a company which has probably accounted for more gunshot deaths than any other arms manufacturer in history, with its series of AK rifles, most notably, the AK-47, has announced its plans to unveil such a fully autonomous robotic weapon system at their upcoming Army-2017 show.

Meanwhile, Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs, General Paul Selva, recently testified to Congress that we must never give AI robotic systems such full control over taking human life lest we lose contol of them and create uncontrollable killing machines. So what do we do? Do we allow our enemies to gain the battle advantage by restricting ourselves with rules of engagement similar to those that have so often hamstrung our forces in the past? Or do we loose these digital dogs of war to roam and fight, unimpeded by human masters? Must our binary beasts fight muzzled by microprocessors awaiting digital approval from human controllers while a free ranging robotic enemy force ravages the battle area unconcerned with such moral niceties as inflicting collateral damages or covering behind human shields?

And it’s not like we have decades to decide this thing; as the Russian announcement makes clear, robotic combat is upon us and if the Russians can actually back up their boast of putting a fully autonomous robotic fighting machine on the battlefield in the next year or so, we’d best have a national discussion soon to develop a national policy to determine:

Who will, quite literally, call the shots?

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