Laura Nolan, a former Google software engineer who left the company in protest of Project Maven, Google’s since-abandoned artificial intelligence development program for military drones, says killer robots could commit atrocities. If governments turn control of their weapons systems over to fully-autonomous machines, we may face devastating, unintentional calamities or acts of war.
Nolan told The Guardian this week that there should always be a human finger on the trigger or else the technology can do “calamitous things that they were not originally programmed for.” But humans commit atrocities too. Democide, or people being killed by their own government/authorities is the leading cause of human death other than natural causes. Humanity has been notoriously violent and forceful with each other.
Even though most scientists want autonomous weapons completely banned, governments have no intention of doing so. It would limit their ability to commit mass murder. Major military powers including Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have invested heavily in autonomous weapons, military drones, and battlefield robots. “You could have a scenario where autonomous weapons that have been sent out to do a job confront unexpected radar signals in an area they are searching,” Nolan told The Guardian.
Nolan was illustrating a hypothetical problem area, suggesting that a machine might mistake hunters for enemy combatants and open fire. But governments are the ones developing these machines and the humans who make up government have “made mistakes” and slaughtered innocent people during war too. It isn’t the robot that’s morally corrupt here; it’s humanity and always has been. Until we evolve past the idea that people have the right to murder and enslave and steal as long as they are voted for by a majority, we will experience atrocities committed by those who were given power that wasn’t theirs to have in the first place.
“Very few people are talking about this but if we are not careful one or more of these weapons, these killer robots, could accidentally start a flash war, destroy a nuclear power station and cause mass atrocities,” Nolan added.
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