IN the opening scenes of most of The Terminator movies, the filmmakers tells the story of Armageddon.
The iconic scene at the start of Terminator 2 documents that humanity created an artificial intelligence computer network called Skynet as part of an American defence plan. But after turning it on, the software becomes self-aware, decides humanity is the big threat, hijacks the nukes and wipes most of humanity out. In the future, those still alive have to face Skynet’s autonomous robotic killing machines, in the form of the Terminators. This includes the iconic image of a dusty skull being crushed by a grinning laser-toting Terminator as it begins to kill the human resistance.
Scenes from popular culture like this are certainly reasons as to why people fear the creation of military artificial intelligence programs. The populist fear, among other things, is also why the United Nations has announced investigating the idea of a blanket worldwide ban on the creation of autonomous machines that can make kill decisions by themselves, with 1,000 experts calling for this ban. But the UK not only opposes this proposal, but also wants to lead the charge in developing this.
Clearly, the warnings from smart minds like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak is not something the military manufacturers and technological developers are that interested in listening to. But at the least, artificial intelligence is already here. The development of AI has been one of humanity’s big technological developments since the early 1980s, and we are now reaching the point where we are regularly being told of claims that computers are passing the Turing Test.
Put it simply, this test was designed to see if an artificial intelligence can trick its judges into thinking its human by communicating like a real person. Last summer, claims emerged of a computer kit that passed the test and convinced its judges that it was a 13-year-old boy. However, technological journalists decided that Eugene, as the computer was not entirely convincing to all the judges. The persona was also of a Ukrainian, meaning it spoke English as a second language and in broken language.
Nevertheless, the fact it fooled a high number of its judges is still a sign full pass of the test is not far off. It is highly likely that computer intelligence and capabilities will overtake human ones within the next century, with some scientists even guessing the point of overtake could be as soon as the 2060’s.
As is seemingly the case with all technological developments, army commanders have decided the plan should be to weaponise it. This plan could have it in combination with drones programmes currently used by the American army in all manner of areas in the Middle East and Central Asia. The rise in drone use has been a defining characteristic of the foreign policy of Obama’s presidency, with thousands of strikes taking place every year.
Equipment like Predator and Reaper drones were developed during the 1990’s and 2000’s to be flown by remote control and deploy missiles, while operators control flight paths and pull the trigger from thousands of miles away. The US programmes see operators in sheds in Las Vegas and Virginia fly these contraptions over the Middle East and central Asia. It is often the case that Obama will be given the final word, and will receive intelligence over the breakfast table before approving when to deploy drones.