Armed with a budget of over $700 billion for the coming year – which will likely continue to grow over the course of Trump’s Pentagon-controlled presidency — the Pentagon’s dystopian vision for the future of the military is quickly becoming a question not of if but when.
by Whitney Webb
Part 3 - Ethical killer robots
While those “unintended consequences” may not keep DARPA higher-ups like Goldblatt awake at night, concerns about the Pentagon’s plan to embrace a mechanized future have been common outside of the military. In attempts to quell those concerns, the Pentagon has repeatedly assured that humans will always remain in control when it comes to making life-and-death decisions and that they are putting special care into preventing robots from engaging in unintended attacks or falling prey to hackers.
They have even enlisted experts to help add “ethics” so its robotic soldiers will not violate the Geneva Conventions and will “perform more ethically than human soldiers.” This may seem a rather low bar to those who are aware of the Pentagon’s egregious record of human rights violations and war crimes. If the Pentagon’s use of drones is any indication, the military’s “ethical” use of automated killing machines is indeed suspect.
Previous reporting has shown that those who doubt the Pentagon’s professed concern over preventing “unethical” consequences resulting from its development of a robot army are right to do so. As journalist Nafeez Ahmed reported in 2016, official U.S. military documents reveal that humans in charge of overseeing the actions of military robots will soon be replaced by “self-aware” interconnected robots, “who” will both design and conduct operations against targets chosen by artificial-intelligence systems. Not only that, but these same documents show that by 2030 the Pentagon plans to delegate mission planning, target selection and the deployment of lethal force across air, land, and sea entirely to autonomous weapon systems based on an advanced artificial intelligence system.
If that weren’t concerning enough, the Pentagon’s AI system for threat assessment is set to be populated by massive data sets that include blogs, websites, and public social media posts such as those found on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. This AI system will employ such data in order to carry out predictive actions, such as the predictive-policing AI system already developed by major Pentagon contractor Palantir. The planned system that will control the Pentagon’s autonomous army will also seek to “predict human responses to our actions.” As Ahmed notes, the ultimate idea – as revealed by the Department of Defense’s own documents — is to identify potential targets — i.e,. persons of interest, and their social connections, in real-time by using social media as “intelligence.”