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New Report Unpacks Dangers of Emerging Military Tech, From AI Nukes to Killer Robots

“While the media and the U.S. Congress have devoted much attention to the purported benefits of exploiting cutting-edge technologies for military use, far less has been said about the risks involved.”

by Brett Wilkins

Emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, lethal autonomous weapons systems, and hypersonic missiles pose a potentially existential threat that underscores the imperative of arms control measures to slow the pace of weaponization, according to a new report published Tuesday.

The Arms Control Association report – entitled Assessing the Dangers: Emerging Military Technologies and Nuclear (In)Stability – “unpacks the concept of ’emerging technologies’ and summarizes the debate over their utilization for military purposes and their impact on strategic stability.”

The publication notes that the world’s military powers “have sought to exploit advanced technologies – artificial intelligence, autonomy, cyber, and hypersonics, among others – to gain battlefield advantages” but warns too little has been said about the dangers these weapons represent.

“Some officials and analysts posit that such emerging technologies will revolutionize warfare, making obsolete the weapons and strategies of the past,” the report states. “Yet, before the major powers move quickly ahead with the weaponization of these technologies, there is a great need for policymakers, defense officials, diplomats, journalists, educators, and members of the public to better understand the unintended and hazardous outcomes of these technologies.”

Lethal autonomous weapons systems – defined by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots as armaments that operate independent of “meaningful human control” – are being developed by nations including China, Israel, Russia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The US Air Force’s sci-fi-sounding Skyborg Autonomous Control System, currently under development, is, according to the report, “intended to control multiple drone aircraft simultaneously and allow them to operate in ‘swarms,’ coordinating their actions with one another with minimum oversight by human pilots.”

“Although the rapid deployment of such systems appears highly desirable to many military officials, their development has generated considerable alarm among diplomats, human rights campaigners, arms control advocates, and others who fear that deploying fully autonomous weapons in battle would severely reduce human oversight of combat operations, possibly resulting in violations of international law, and could weaken barriers that restrain escalation from conventional to nuclear war,” the report notes…………………….

The report also warns of the escalatory potential of cyberwarfare and automated battlefield decision-making.

“As was the case during World Wars I and II, the major powers are rushing ahead with the weaponization of advanced technologies before they have fully considered – let alone attempted to mitigate – the consequences of doing so, including the risk of significant civilian casualties and the accidental or inadvertent escalation of conflict,” Michael Klare, a board member at the Arms Control Association and the report’s lead author, said in a statement.

“While the media and the US Congress have devoted much attention to the purported benefits of exploiting cutting-edge technologies for military use, far less has been said about the risks involved,” he added.


February 9, 2023 - Posted by | weapons and war

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