The Pentagon, via the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), is seeking $12-15 million to develop weapons which would select and engage targets without human intervention. The people who develop artificial intelligence think it's possible that such weapons will exist within years instead of decades, including "armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria." And those developers aren't thrilled about it one bit.
Current AI technology is built on the premise of human non-intervention. For example, on Patriot missile batteries, the automated system will select and destroy a target unless the user opts out, which can have disastrous consequences, especially for friendly fighter pilots trying not to die from Patriot missile attacks, because the AI isn't always as smart as we like to think it is.
So with a current fail-safe system less secure than an iTunes gift card, why don't American lawmakers and generals try to take a hint about the"AI Arms Race" from the most trusted, brilliant, and influential nerds who trying to warn us? Nerds like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Steve Wozniak?
The Defense Department says it's to make the human more effective in combat. Because as anyone who's ever lost their mobile phone knows, having all your numbers stored under names like "Josie Drunk Girl" and "Do Not Answer" makes your memory soooooooo much better.
But the list goes on. According to Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, the new technologies the Pentagon wants to develop will allow commanders to identify and analyze enemy defenses.
Further technological innovations would include wearable electronics, exoskeletons, greater use of drones and manned aircraft working together, and mother ships that would send out mini-drones to execute military missions, all of which could incorporate AI.
The announcement comes not just against the urging of America's tech mogul community, but also amid skepticism from within the Defense Department's own ranks, presumably until Deputy Secretary Work actually told a packed conference at the Center for a New American Security the DoD wants to be able to "kick the crap out of people who grew up under an authoritarian reign," at which point, I imagine they erupted in cheers and then partied like a group of tailgating Buffalo Bills fans.