Advances in science and technology have made it possible for future automatic weapons to independently select and attack targets. And this kind of lethal automatic weapon system (LAWS) is also called “killer robot”. They may be an aircraft with a weapon system or a micro tank with a weapon platform. In short, they can decide who to let go. dead.
Putting these killer robots into the battlefield can greatly reduce the danger and burden of human soldiers. However, there are also many artificial intelligence experts who worry that these robots will bring more dangers and security risks, for example, they may be used by unethical behaviors, or even become hackers’ control platforms. Nevertheless, in recent years, countries around the world have invested in the research and development of automated weapons.
So, is the era of “Terminator” really approaching?
As night fell, the sentries on duty near the “38th Line” of North Korea and South Korea began to feel tired, while the gun robots deployed by South Korea were still vigilantly monitoring the conditions within a few kilometers. It was equipped with highly sensitive heat. Sensing sensors and infrared night vision cameras will immediately “report” to the South Korean command center once an illegal intruder is found. After receiving the firing order, they will use their Daewoo K3 machine gun or grenade launcher to shoot at the target.
This robot is a SGR-A1 robot sentry developed by South Korea’s Samsung in 2006. The cost is US$200,000. The main function is to replace the traditional sentry to prevent illegal intruders in military areas or borders. Although this robot does not currently have the ability to make autonomous decisions and can only perform guard tasks under the supervision of the operator, it is actually equipped with an algorithm for identifying friend or foe. It can distinguish the identity of the enemy or foe by asking the target to reply to the password through voice. It will be needed in the future. Under circumstances, it can also automatically detect and judge targets and complete autonomous shooting.
The development of military robots
SGR-A1 is not the only robot used in the military. In 2011, a Belarusian company designed an unmanned remote control weapon platform called Adunok-M. This robot has a track system, just like a small armored vehicle, it is also equipped with a grenade launcher and a machine gun, which can attack and destroy targets within 800 meters according to the received remote control instructions. The designer said that it can also choose to use a 7.62 mm light machine gun or a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun according to different tasks.
In addition, there are the “Gladiator” combat robots of the US Marine Corps, and the “Guardian” unmanned combat vehicles used by the Israeli army for border security missions. It can be seen that the era of unmanned weapon systems has come quietly.
The X-47B unmanned combat aircraft developed under the leadership of the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the first unmanned aircraft in human history that is completely computer-controlled without human intervention. A stealth unmanned bomber that can take off from an aircraft carrier and fall back on its own.
However, what degree of autonomy must be achieved before it can be called a completely independent military robot? According to the standards of the US Department of Defense, once autonomous military robots are put into operation, they must be able to automatically identify and lock the target, and then autonomously decide what measures should be taken against them. As long as they can complete this set of procedures without being controlled, they are qualified autonomous military robots. At present, the standards of the US Department of Defense allow unmanned weapon platforms to have two modes of automatic and manual operation, but at this stage, when it comes to attack tasks such as firing, these weapon platforms still use manual operation mode. However, experts believe that under the current technical conditions, it is not difficult to develop a mature and lethal autonomous weapon system, which can take decades to achieve it in just a few years.
Controversial autonomous weapon system
The emergence of more and more military robots has also caused more and more controversies in the world. Many scientists believe that once this type of autonomous weapon system is put into use, it will trigger the third revolution in war following the invention of gunpowder and nuclear weapons. This is not alarmist, because just in 2015, a “crazy” robot “accidentally” killed an assembly worker in an American car factory, and then his family was involved in the crime of accidental death. The robot manufacturer filed a lawsuit.
Also in 2015, at a science and technology conference in London, the famous scientist Stephen Hawking issued a warning that robots will control humans. Hawking said: “In the next 100 years, robots incorporating artificial intelligence will become smarter than humans. At that time, we need to ensure that robots are consistent with our goals. Our future depends on the increasing power of technology and the wisdom of our use of technology. A race between them.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk also holds the same view. In a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he described artificial intelligence robots as the “biggest existential threat” to mankind. He believed that it only takes 5 years for artificial intelligence to bring extreme danger to the world.
To this end, more than 1,000 experts and entrepreneurs in the field of science and technology jointly issued an open letter to boycott automatic weapons. The letters included the famous scientist Stephen Hawking, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple. Founder Steve Wozniak. The letter reads: “The key question for mankind today is whether to start a global artificial intelligence weapons race or prevent it from starting.”
Scientists said that because automatic weapons will use artificial intelligence to select targets without human intervention Therefore, once such a robot with autonomous decision-making and behavioral capabilities falls into the hands of terrorists, dictators, and warlords, the consequences will be unimaginable. Although the original intention of various countries to develop military robots is to reduce casualties on the battlefield, doing so also lowers the threshold for humans to enter the battlefield, and may even intensify the military power competition between major powers.
Stop developing killer robots!
“Stop developing killer robots” is a movement initiated by several non-governmental organizations in 2013. They often organize similar activities to draw the government and the public’s attention to this issue. The picture shows their activities in London.
As early as 2013, a non-governmental organization initiated the “Stop the Development of Killer Robots” campaign. They believed that the existence of lethal automatic weapon systems violated the basic dignity of human beings. It is very inhumane for robots to choose who to kill. Robots may be authorized to kill anyone who shows potentially threatening behavior, including civilians without weapons.
With the efforts of all sectors of society, this issue has finally received the attention of the United Nations. In 2014, the United Nations began to discuss the use of lethal autonomous weapons and was considering drafting international laws to restrict the development and dissemination of killer robot technology.
However, at the 2016 UN Conference on Specific Conventional Weapons Convention, among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, only China clearly expressed support for the establishment of a treaty to control robotic weapons. The United States took a negative attitude towards this because of concerns about military constraints. Russia, Britain, and France did not make a clear statement.
Among the 120 countries participating in the meeting, although most of the countries expressed their support for the United Nations to take reasonable control of autonomous weapon systems, only 19 countries clearly stated that they should stop the development and use of lethal autonomous weapon systems, which are more influential The only countries in China are Algeria, Mexico, Venezuela, Pakistan and Egypt. A country with advanced robotics technology like Japan is concerned that control may affect the development of domestic robots, so it is more cautious about control measures. However, the conference finally decided to set up a formal expert meeting to discuss issues such as the control of “killer robots”.
What makes these big powers behave so vaguely and ambiguously on the issue of controlling autonomous weapons? There is only one answer, and that is interest. Obviously, these killer robots will be more efficient on the battlefield than flesh and blood human soldiers, because they can fight day and night without feeling tired, without food and sleep, without being restricted by physical conditions, or affected by emotions. , They will not feel fear when killing, nor will they have mercy on the enemy, they will only complete all the tasks set mechanically.
Although these killer robots are currently expensive, with the development of technology and the mass production of robot parts, the cost of making these robots will only get lower and lower in the future. In contrast, in a superpower like the United States, once a soldier casualty occurs, the government needs to pay an average of US$850,000 per person in pensions to their families. From a cost-effective perspective, it is more beneficial for the government to replace real people with killer robots. .
However, what experts worry about is that once these killer robots are put on the battlefield in the future, whether they can follow the accepted rules of engagement and ethics, and whether they can distinguish between innocent civilians and soldiers of the enemy, and after the enemy soldiers surrender. Will they continue to fire, because after all, they are not drones that humans can fully control, but killer robots with complete autonomy.
Autonomous air-ground weapons systems
despite lethal autonomous weapons systems could bring all sorts of dangers to the world, but out of consideration the interests of the military, many countries still vigorously developed and put into use autonomous weapons.
Among them, South Korea and Israel have begun to use surface-to-air semi-automatic air defense missile systems, and the United States has also developed the X-47B unmanned combat aircraft, which is the first unmanned aircraft in human history that is completely computer-controlled without human intervention. , Is also the first stealth unmanned bomber that can take off from an aircraft carrier and fall back on its own.
In this regard, Russia is not to be outdone. The design of an unmanned turret is also used on Russia’s latest T-14 Armata main battle tank, and omnidirectional photoelectric and radar detectors as well as two types of interceptor bombs have been installed so far. The tank with the highest level of active protection technology so far can effectively suppress the three generations of main battle tanks most commonly used in the West.
The United Kingdom has also developed an unmanned fighter jet “God of Thunder” similar to the American X-47B. The aircraft uses a triple flight management system, including flight navigation, guidance and control systems, ground control systems, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance management systems. , And also applied cutting-edge technologies including stealth technology and automatic control technology, which is an important part of the British strategic UAV experiment plan.
Maritime autonomous weapon system
In addition to land and air autonomous weapon systems, countries are also racing to develop maritime autonomous weapon systems, because maritime autonomous weapons can not only navigate autonomously on water or underwater for a long time, but also have intelligent control capabilities that can implement close-range intelligence reconnaissance in important sea areas. , Environmental data collection, water or underwater persistent reconnaissance and surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, logistics support and many other tasks have become an important development direction of global naval equipment.
The United States was the first country to develop maritime autonomous weapon systems, and its technology has always been a global leader. The “Sea Hunter” developed by the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a special-purpose unmanned boat. Although the boat is unmanned, it is compatible with remote monitoring and control stations and can be 35 knots (64 kilometers). /Hour) for 48 hours of continuous sailing.
In Europe, Thales of France and ASV of the United Kingdom are also jointly developing an unmanned surface vehicle that can meet future MCM combat missions. This vehicle can be deployed on any military platform, ship, shore or port, and can be equipped with a variety of anti-mine systems including unmanned submersibles, towed sonar, and it also has excellent slow towing capabilities. Compared with traditional equipment, it has higher reliability and lower manufacturing cost, and will become a key winning factor in future mine warfare.
Although the original intention of countries to develop lethal autonomous weapon systems is to protect their own soldiers from harm, allowing these killer robots to develop is likely to pose a greater threat to mankind, because they are not subject to any moral, legal and Responsibility constraints may make life and death decisions beyond human control at any time.
At present, the best way to control this crisis is to introduce relevant international laws to restrict the use of autonomous weapons, but this requires the joint efforts of all countries in the world. But now, we can only pray, hoping that the era of the “terminator” will never come.