Artificial Intelligence: Can Killer Robots Save Lives?

You've probably heard AI is the new electricity. It's a comparison by Dr. Andrew Ng of Landing AI. As you know, AI is transforming everything from Agriculture to Warfare.

The latter, for some, is considered so dangerous there needs to be an international ban on the 'killer robots'; also referred to as lethal autonomous weapons (LAWS).

In an article titled Killer Robots Reconsidered: Could AI Weapons Actually Cut Collateral Damage? author Larry Lewis argues on the surface, who would disagree with quashing the idea of supposed killer robots? The problem, Larry says, is proponents of a ban rely on arguments that are inaccurate about the nature of warfare itself, and about the state of AI. Larry believes the applications of artificial intelligence can actually save lives by reducing the main human errors associated with warfare; missed indicators of civilians present, or civilians mistaken as combatants. Larry proposes AI will make weapons systems and future wars relatively less risky for civilians than it is today. 

In Death by Algorithm: The Age of Killer Robots is Closer than you Think, author Kelsey Piper posits the technical feasibility of robots making decisions about whom to kill without a "human in the loop" due to advancements in facial recognition and decision-making algorithms. One of the reasons given for autonomous weapons is they can't be jammed by the enemy. Another is that robots, unlike humans, don't get fatigued, stressed, and confused into making mistakes. However, Kelsey notes taking humans out of the loop has terrifying moral implications. The fatal flaw centers around the idea of what is legal isn't always what is right. Kelsey acknowledges sometimes soldiers do worse than the law permits, and on other occasions they do better, but that's because soldiers are human and bound by moral and legal codes. Robots are not.

While the moral and ethical debate focuses on the weapons, readers should keep in mind Larry's three applications of Artificial Intelligence in Warfare before enacting laws and policies that can't keep up with the technology:

Optimization of Automated Processing: Improving the signal to noise in detection

Decision Aids: Help humans make sense of complex or vast sets of data

Autonomy: Systems able to take actions when certain conditions are met (Eliminating the human in the loop and reducing the potential for human error)  

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