The Future of Robotic Warfare
Big Think: How worried should we be about robots commanding themselves in war?
P.W. Singer: I don’t think we’re yet to the point that you have to, you know, keep an eye on your [own back] for, you know, a sneak ambush or something like that. You know, like, death by dust inhalation or something. But, I do think there are some issues that we need to pay attention to. And so I actually went around and interviewed all these various robotic scientists and said, you know, is this something that is a possibility? Let’s take this seriously.
And there are basically three answers. One was, no, that’s silly. It will not happen. These are systems, for example, that don’t have a survival instinct, and in awe of science fiction the story is always that the machine gets scared and lashes out at the humans first. Well, guess what, we’re building these machines specifically to die in war so why would they care.
The second answer is don’t worry about it. The software, you know, will probably crash right at the moment that they’re, you know, deciding to revolt. You know, they’ll try and load an [S4] document and boom, just like what’s happening to all of us.
The third answer, though, is a fascinating one is that there is a pretty substantial minority and it has a lot of distinguished people in it who do think it’s a possibility someday. One Pentagon scientist, for example, said to me, “You know, I’m probably working on something that’s either going to kill or enslave my grandkids, but, you know, it’s really cool stuff, so why stop.”
Right now, we have 5,000 of these drones in the air, 12,000 on the ground. If we take the growth trajectory up, this one Air Force lieutenant general put it, we’re reaching into the tens of thousands. This is the future of war. But, there is another side of the future of war that is the enemy has a vote and so you have these continual global insurgencies. And that’s these two trends coming together, both the unmanning of war but also the flattening of war that is it’s becoming a game in which not just stage play.
And the challenge for all of us is that both robotics and insurgencies and terrorism are things that, one, we don’t understand very well, and two, we really haven’t yet figured it out how to deal with them, and you have these two trends coming together and that’s a challenge for us all.
Robots already play a major role in modern warfare in the form of airborne drones, but as artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, will we have to worry about our own soldiers turning into the enemy?
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.
- Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
- The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
- Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.
- For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
- These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
- Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.
- Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
- A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
- The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.