April 1, 2008
London-based Landmine Action, who have pressured nations against land mines and cluster bombs, are now looking to terminate Terminators before they ever get their AIs in order.
Failure detected in the tin-foil-to-brain interface. Landmine Action seems to have the right idea, but this may be a sign of a paranoid delusion. Land mines and cluster bombs are existing technologies that are being used; Terminator robots do not exist… yet. There are armed robots out there (human controlled), and there are autonomous robots (somewhat), but there are no armed autonomous robots.
Then there’s this Wired Danger Room blog on the same article that says that the Pentagon will still have human intervention planned for the possible Terminators:
The Pentagon has not only never advocated taking the man-out-the-loop of targeting decisions for drones or robots, its current policies and procedures would prohibit such a move (some might argue that international law already prohibits autonomous armed drones).
They even have a link to this DoD brief on targeting.
John and Sarah Connor, they are not. Wired’s Sharon Weinberger sparked a bit of controversy with her take on the NewScientist Report; Enough to justify questioning those who are warning of the “impending robot revolt:”
My first question, and what prompted the original post, was: Where and when has the Pentagon advocated handing over actual weapons release decisions to an artificial life form? The Predator, SWORDS, and other robotic systems may have a few, limited capabilities to autonomously operate. But the decision to shoot is currently made, quite pointedly, by a human operator. If there has been a sea-change in Pentagon policy, I would like someone to point out a reliable source noting this change. (If there is another country that it taking the man completely out of the loop, again, I’d like to see evidence for this.)
My second question is: how do we define a robot? DANGER ROOM has written about “killer robots” a number of times, but these are not Terminators, since, again, there is a man in the loop. As several commenters pointed out, a Roomba is an autonomous system, so all it takes is a Roomba with a bomb to create a “killer robot.” In other words, the capability exists for robots to kill without human intervention. That’s true, but that capability has existed for decades. As another commenter noted: a heat-seeking missile could, by some definitions, be regarded as a robot (particularly if, as the original post noted, we equate land mines with robots). Okay, if a landmine is a robot, then isn’t every guided missile, weapon and bomb a robot (and if so, should we ban them all)?
If heat-seekers qualify as robots, then Landmine Action’s mission has failed miserably… even before it got started.
Perhaps the bigger problem is: What if autonomous robots fall into terrorist hands? This Reuters article asks that question outright. With the needed components becoming cheaper and cheaper, a home-brew Terminator army may not be far off. That may be the true problem that Landmine Action needs to intervene.
Then again, if Terminators do become reality, who do you think they would target first?