ANYBODY WHO HAS PLAYED Civilization will know that artificial intelligence doesn't always do diplomacy well. Anything that can transform the mild-mannered Ghandi into a war-crazed tyrant perhaps isn't ideal when managing diplomacy and national security.
Obviously we're being flippant, but the concern about AI, robotics and military action is a very real one, and the latest voice expressing concern is ex Googler Laura Nolan, who resigned from the company last year over being moved to work on AI military drone tech.
Having joined the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and subsequently briefed UN diplomats on the subject, Nolan's latest concern is that left to its own devices, AI could end up starting wars or committing mass atrocities.
"I am not saying that missile-guided systems or anti-missile defence systems should be banned. They are after all under full human control and someone is ultimately accountable," Nolan told The Guardian. "These autonomous weapons, however, are an ethical as well as a technological step change in warfare. Very few people are talking about this but if we are not careful one or more of these weapons, these killer robots, could accidentally start a flash war, destroy a nuclear power station and cause mass atrocities."
One of the big problems, Nolan explains, is that these systems can only really be tested in combat zones, which raises its own problems. "How do you train a system that runs solely on software how to detect subtle human behaviour or discern the difference between hunters and insurgents?" she asked. "How does the killing machine out there on its own flying about distinguish between the 18-year-old combatant and the 18-year-old who is hunting for rabbits?"
Nolan left Google over her work on Project Maven - a part of Google working on improving drone video recognition technology for the US Department of Defense. Although it's too late for her, Google eventually let the contract lapse back in March after more than 3,000 Googlers signed a petition condemning the company's involvement in military projects.
You can read the full interview with Nolan over at The Guardian. µ
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