A Pentagon-funded team of scientists have constructed a machine that functions like a human brain and would enable robots to think independently and act autonomously.
Researchers for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) have created a device that “looks and ‘thinks’ like a human brain,” James K. Gimzewski, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, told National Defense Magazine.
The program is called “physical intelligence” and is capable, “without being programmed like a traditional robot, of performing actions similar to humans,” making it the first incarnation of a robot that can perform “truly autonomously” without human input.
“What sets this new device apart from any others is that it has nano-scale interconnected wires that perform billions of connections like a human brain, and is capable of remembering information,” writes Sandra I. Erwin. “Each connection is a synthetic synapse. A synapse is what allows a neuron to pass an electric or chemical signal to another cell. Because its structure is so complex, most artificial intelligence projects so far have been unable to replicate it.”
The technology would allow drones to be created that do not need human operators, machines that would be able to learn and navigate through terrain completely of their own accord.
According to Erwin, it is not yet confirmed whether the Pentagon will look to apply the technology to weapons systems.
However, given the fact that the vast majority of DARPA’s work in robotics is geared towards creating an army of battlefield soldiers, it’s not a huge leap to make.
Numerous experts have warned that robots currently being developed in the name of humanitarian assistance will ultimately be used to kill enemy soldiers and accused terrorists.
Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, has repeatedly warned that the robots currently being developed under the auspices of DARPA will eventually be used to kill.
“Of course if it’s used for combat, it would be killing civilians as well as it’s not going to be able to discriminate between civilians and soldiers,” said Sharkey.
Last month, award-winning military writer and former intelligence officer Lt. Col. Douglas Pryer also wrote an essay warning of the threat posed by remorseless “killer robots” that will be used to stalk and slaughter human targets in the near future.
In a 50-page report published last year, Human Rights Watch also warned that artificially intelligent robots let loose on the battlefield would inevitably commit war crimes.
Last year, experts at the prestigious University of Cambridge announced a project to conduct research into the “extinction-level risks” posed to humanity by artificially intelligent robots.
Flying drones that communicate with each other are also being developed for “hunting terrorists” and other “homeland security” purposes, as well as UAVs that could one day snatch humans off the street.
The fact that DARPA’s latest robotic creation looks human is also not going to do anything to dampen fears about the “rise of the machines”.