Award-winning military writer and former intelligence officer Lt. Col. Douglas Pryer has penned 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.
Pryer worked in military intelligence after joining the US Army in 1992 and has served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. He has won several prestigious awards since he began writing in 2009.
In an essay published by the United States Army Combined Arms Center, Pryer laments how the use of unmanned drones – which kill 50 innocent civilian for every suspected terrorist – are perpetuating wars and endangering America’s global reputation. He then makes a stark warning that the drone strike program is merely a pre-cursor to the kind of nightmare technocracy depicted in the Terminator movies.
“It seems heart-breakingly obvious that future generations will someday look back upon the last decade as the start of the rise of the machines,” writes Pryer, adding that the US government is developing, “robots so advanced that they make today’s Predators and Reapers look positively impotent and antique. These killer robots, though, will share one thing in common with their primitive progenitors: with remorseless purpose, they will stalk and kill any human deemed “a legitimate target” by their controllers and programmers.”
Pryer’s comments echo those of Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, who has repeatedly warned that the robots currently being developed under the auspices of DARPA will eventually be used to kill.
Sharkey described the DARPA robots as “an incredible technical achievement, but it’s unfortunate that it’s going to be used to kill people.”
“It’s going to be used for chasing people across the desert, I would imagine. I can’t think of many civilian applications – maybe for hunting, or farming, for rounding up sheep.” Sharkey added.
“But 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.”
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.
“Giving machines the power to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield would take technology too far. Human control of robotic warfare is essential to minimizing civilian deaths and injuries. It is essential to stop the development of killer robots before they show up in national arsenal. As countries become more invested in this technology, it will become harder to persuade them to give it up,” said, HRW’s Steve Goose, calling for a ban on the technology.
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.
Take a look at DARPA’s current array of robots in the video below.