Fears the Pentagon has been ‘building killer robots in the basement’ may have led to stricter AI rules that mandated all systems must be approved before deployment.
The Department of Defense (DoD) recently updated its AI rules among ‘a lot of confusion about’ how it plans to use self-decision-making machines on the battlefield, according to the deputy assistant defense secretary.
Michael Horowitz explained at an event this month that the ‘directive does not prohibit the development of any systems,’ but will ‘make clear what is and isn’t allowed’ and uphold a ‘commitment to responsible behavior,’ as it develops lethal autonomous systems.
While the Pentagon believes the changes should ease the public’s minds, some have said they are not ‘convinced’ by the efforts.
Fears the Pentagon has been ‘building killer robots in the basement’ may have led to stricter AI rules that mandated all systems must be approved before deployment. Pictured is the MAARS unmanned vehicle unveiled in in 2015
News of the update to the Pentagon’s 2012 ‘Autonomy in Weapon Systems,’ has sparked a debate online with many people saying ‘If the Pentagon says they’re not doing it, they’re doing it.’
Dailymail.com has reached out to the DoD for comment.
The DoD has been aggressively pushing to modernize its arsenal with autonomous drones, tanks, and other weapons that select and attack a target without human intervention.
Mark Brakel, director of the advocacy organization Future of Life Institute (FLI), told DailyMail.com: ‘These weapons carry a massive risk of unintended escalation.’
He explained that AI-powered weapons could misinterpret something, like a ray of sunlight, and perceive it as a threat, thus attacking foreign powers without cause.
Brakel said the result could be devastating because ‘without meaningful human control, AI-powered weapons are like the Norwegian rocket incident [a near nuclear armageddon] on steroids and they could increase the risk of accidents in hotspots such as the Taiwan Strait.’
The Department of Defense (DoD) recently updated its AI rules among ‘a lot of confusion about’ how it plans to use self-decision-making machines on the battlefield
The DoD has encouraged global measures to monitor AI weapons by calling on other countries to endorse the Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy, and as of November, 47 countries endorsed the initiative.
Horowitz said during a January 9 panel that the DoD is laser-focused when it comes to building the public’s trust and confidence in the technology and that the department is committed to adhering to international humanitarian law.
‘The real test of any new directive should be in how many weapons it rules out or significantly modifies,’ Brakel said.
‘We have yet to see any evidence that changes in the directive have a meaningful impact on how weapons are developed.’
Autonomous military systems are not only being developed by the US, as China and Russia have their own AI-powered arsenals that are currently being used in two wars.
The Pentagon announced in November that it would unleash thousands of AI-enabled autonomous vehicles by 2026 to keep up with America’s adversaries.
Humanitarian groups worry that the AI-powered weapons could fall into the wrong hands or unintentionally spark a war by mistaking something like sunlight for an attack
The ambitious initiative — dubbed Replicator — seeks to ‘galvanize progress in the too-slow shift of U.S. military innovation to leverage platforms that are small, smart, cheap, and many,’ Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said in August.
‘Replicator itself is about a process,’ Mr. Horowitz said this month. ‘It’s about figuring out how … we can field at speed and scale key capabilities that we view as important given the national defense strategy.’
Horowitz also said that the DoD is laser-focused when it comes to building the public’s trust and confidence in the technology and that the department is committed to adhering to international humanitarian law.
However, other members of FLI are not sold on the stricter rules and how the Pentagon will see them through.
Anna Hehir, who leads autonomous weapons system research for FLI, told The Hill: ‘It’s really a Pandora’s box that we’re starting to see open, and it will be very hard to go back.
‘ I would argue for the Pentagon to view the use of AI in military use as on par with the start of the nuclear era,’ she added.
‘So this is a novel technology that we don’t understand. And if we view this in an arms raceway, which is what the Pentagon is doing, then we can head to global catastrophe.’