Kalashnikov, the Russian weapons manufacturer behind the most effective killing machine in history, has stepped into the future of warfare, announcing its development of autonomous AI-controlled combat robots.
Kalashnikov Group Communications Director Sofiya Ivanova announced the automated weapons only days after a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin. She said that the manufacturer “will unveil a range of products based on neural networks” in the “imminent future.” In a statement to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency, she added that “a fully automated combat module featuring this technology is planned to be demonstrated at the Army-2017 forum.”
While lacking in elaborate description, the information provided is clear enough. A fully automated warfare AI based on neural network technology will not only accept programming but learn from its experiences. The fact that it is already primed for demonstration this year makes a strong statement regarding Kalashnikov Group’s confidence in a weapon that aims itself.
This is precisely the sort of development that General Paul Selva warned lawmakers about during Tuesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and the basis for the open letter published by the Future of Life Institute cosigned by Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, among many others.
Bringing this technology from concept to execution poses very serious questions for our armed forces. An essay by retired US Army Colonel Joseph Brecher highlights the threat of ignoring these hyper-efficient, artificially intelligent killing machines. In “My Droneski Just Ate Your Ethics,” Colonel Brecher rebuts General Selva’s position by noting the disparities between the U.S.’s currently allowable war machines and tech that the Kalashnikov Group is now preparing.
In the scenario described, a semi-autonomous weapon is easily dispatched by a fully automated enemy force. The first concern notes the inherent vulnerability of a unit that requires constant communication between weapons systems and a human controller, which can have its communications intercepted. The second concern is more elemental: There is no human on our planet who can match the decision-making efficiency of a computer.
It is a conflict that will pit our ethics against raw pragmatism, and Kalashnikov Group just opened fire.
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