(TMU) — It’s long been an image restricted to popular culture: unstoppable robot killers firing their high-powered rifles at clusters of helpless human soldiers with no choice but to flee the battlefield or risk sustaining tremendous losses.
The scenario of military robots and the artificial intelligence (AI) network “Skynet” spinning free from human control forms the basis of the Terminator series starring Arnold Schwarzenegger that has captivated moviegoers around the world. But now, according to a U.S. Navy official, the science fiction nightmare of wars entrusted to machines that “can’t be reasoned with [and] doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear,”—as one character in the original film says—could become a reality.
The comments come as the Navy continues to upgrade its autonomous capabilities and bulk up its ranks with more advanced robotic systems.
However, this has been accompanied by work meant to prevent the service from putting too much trust into a system that could, some fear, one day have a mind of its own.
Steve Olsen, deputy branch head of the Navy’s mine warfare office, told Defense News:
“Trust is something that is difficult to come by with a computer, especially as we start working with our test and evaluation community.
I’ve worked with our test and evaluation director, and a lot of times it’s: ‘Hey, what’s that thing going to do?’ And I say: ‘I don’t know, it’s going to pick the best path.’”
Comparing the pitfalls of autonomous warfighting systems to the car crashes involving semi-autonomous private automobiles, Olsen continued:
“And they don’t like that at all because autonomy makes a lot of people nervous. But the flip side of this is that there is one thing that we have to be very careful of, and that’s that we don’t over-trust. Everybody has seen on the news [when people] over-trusted their Tesla car. That is something that we can’t do when we talk about weapons’ system.
The last thing we want to see is the whole ‘Terminator going crazy’ [scenario], so we’re working very hard to take the salient steps to protect ourselves and others.”
The Navy is already experimenting with a 135-ton autonomous unmanned surface vehicle (USV) named the Sea Hunter, which is meant to provide an autonomous platform for anti-submarine and electronic warfare as well as provide a decoy in any live-fire clash involving human forces.
Earlier this year, the Sea Hunter was the first ship of any kind to ever sail without a crew from San Diego, California, to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and back.
And according to Defense One, the Air Force will begin work on flying cars this fall in a program called Agility Prime. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics had this to say of the program:
“The task I gave the team was to prepare a series of challenges from things that would involve smaller vehicles, maybe moving a couple of special aviators around, to things involving smaller logistics sets, ammo, meals that kind of thing out of harm’s way, up to moving heavy logistics, like weapons to reload on an aircraft, all the way to a bigger system.”
In 2017, AI technology experts including Tesla founder Elon Musk wrote an open letter to the United Nations warning of the potential dangers of weapons systems equipped with integrated autonomous capabilities.
The letter noted:
“Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots has also worked to fully ban autonomous weapons from the battlefield, noting that fully autonomous weapon systems “would decide who lives and dies, without further human intervention, which crosses a moral threshold,” according to its website.
The campaign added:
“As machines, they would lack the inherently human characteristics such as compassion that are necessary to make complex ethical choices.”
According to the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, the stage is being set for a potentially destabilizing “robotic arms race” that could see countries worldwide working to gain the upper-hand in building their autonomous warfighting capabilities.
The militaries of the U.S., Russia, China, Israel, South Korea and the United Kingdom have already developed advanced systems that enjoy significant autonomy in their ability to select and attack targets, the campaign notes.
And while countries across the Global South have urged the UN to impose a ban on killer robots, states who possess these technologies have opposed such a ban at every turn—signaling that they are unwilling to let go of their revolutionary new implements of death.
And on Sunday, former top Google engineer Laura Nolan told the Guardian that she had joined the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots because the robot systems envisioned by Big Tech firms and militaries could potentially do “calamitous things that they were not originally programmed for.”
The former Google worker, who resigned last year in protest of Google’s Project Maven—which was meant to dramatically upgrade U.S. military drones’ AI capabilities—has also briefed U.N. diplomats on the hazards of robotic weaponry.
“The likelihood of a disaster is in proportion to how many of these machines will be in a particular area at once. What you are looking at are possible atrocities and unlawful killings even under laws of warfare, especially if hundreds or thousands of these machines are deployed.
There could be large-scale accidents because these things will start to behave in unexpected ways. Which is why any advanced weapons systems should be subject to meaningful human control, otherwise they have to be banned because they are far too unpredictable and dangerous.”
According to a supplemental report to President Trump’s budget request, the federal government is poised to spend nearly $1 billion on nondefense AI research and development in fiscal year 2020.
Defense One reports that on Monday the Trump administration held an AI summit at the White House, “hosting 200 leaders from the government, industry and academia to address priorities across the burgeoning landscape.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.