Sci-fi novels are full of fear-inducing visions of soulless robots with cold, red eyes that rule all of society and ultimately bring about the end of the human race. These images are laughed off, with many people believing that they are unrealistic visions of a future that will never occur. Sadly, we are already partially living in that world. The term artificial intelligence, also known as AI, refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machinery. When we think of artificial intelligence, we think of robots and drones. But artificial intelligence is already surrounding us. From Snapchat filters to Grammarly to social media feeds, AI has become a part of our daily lives.
From where we are now, it may not seem like that big of a deal. AI is helping us, not harming us. These algorithms and machines are not going to rise against humanity one day. However, the real danger of artificial intelligence lies in its future implications. Currently, the wealthy nations of the world are developing wartime AI technology, such as drones. Some are discussing the possibilities of sending ‘killer robots’ into wars to preserve the lives of human soldiers. The most potentially dangerous of these robots are called autonomous weapons systems, and the goal is for them to function without any human control.
Although this sounds like it could save many soldiers’ lives, there are multiple ethical issues with sending robots into war. Firstly, ethicists are debating whether it is ethical for a robot to decide when a human dies. Robots are currently unable to process complex situations in real time and could kill civilians. Secondly, only the wealthiest countries can afford to implement AI in their armies. This would leave many countries completely unable to defend themselves if under attack. Thirdly, robots can malfunction. If wartime interactions that a robot was not prepared or programmed for occur, the situation could escalate extremely quickly. AI does not have any kind of reliability guarantee. One could argue that humans do not have any such guarantees either; however, human soldiers do have life experience and varying degrees of empathy that cannot be matched by robots.
The fourth main concern is the lack of regulation and cooperation on the use of artificial intelligence in war. Governments have not implemented restrictions to curb the malevolent use of AI. Experts are concerned that by the time governments set concrete restrictions and guidelines regarding AI in war, it could be too late. Additionally, different governments have differing views on the subject, with many countries protesting that it is dangerous, unnecessary, and unequal to allow nations to deploy robots while others praise AI’s implications for future warfare with reduced human casualties.
There are many issues with the use of artificial intelligence in war. However, all of these problems can be solved individually through international collaboration. If researchers, technology experts, ethicists, legislators, and ordinary citizens come together, we can ensure that the use of AI in warfare stays safe and ethical.