The Use of AI and Robotics in Weapon Systems

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July 16, 2018 | Originally published by Date Line: July 16 on

Many artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics technologies, including the cutting-edge ones, are dual use technologies. They have civilian and military applications. Besides defence contractors in the military industrial complex developing high tech robotic weapons, the same technology can be developed for civilian use, commercialized, and then exported to other countries. Even the humble robotic carpet cleaner has technologies initially connected with military robots. The combination of military and civilian applications makes a strong justification for the development of such technologies.

New technologies can also bring military applications to new heights. The X-41 Common Aero Vehicle Falcon program is a glimpse of the future. It has broad application potential. The X-41 operates like a missile that can fly at high altitude and carry nuclear and non-nuclear warheads. It can strike with lethal force if necessary, fly at high altitudes almost reaching space without detection, and return back to the missile base without delivering its warhead payloads if there is no need to or if there is a change of mind about the target.

Besides the skies, a ground-based combat robot is typically fitted with a range of ammunition from non-lethal to armor-penetrating bullets. Some of the world’s most dangerous locations can be patrolled by such robots in the near future, including for example the Demilitarized Zone located between North and South Korea or even long porous borders where drug gangs and smugglers operate. But the use of robots and drones may raise ethical questions. Some ask if it is legal or lawful for robots to kill humans, especially if it is done autonomously without tangible human inputs.