Lost in the Drone Wars: Our Humanity

By Ian Darwin on 2015-06-09 12:37

The United State of America has made many bad decisions:

  • To fail to impeach a president who uniltaterally orders war on a sovereign nation based on faulty information that it was stockpiling "weapons of math destruction", who foolishly thought he could impose democracy on a culture that had never had it;
  • To fail to impeach a president who authorizes the murder of U.S. Citizens who are considered 'terrorists' using the same information sources that lead to the invasion of Iraq on claims of the non-existent WMDs;
  • To arm many of the groups in the area that later came to fight against them (including al-Quaeda, fallout from America's proxy war on Russia in Afghanistan);
  • To use "drones" (pilotless aircraft, "unmanned aerial vehicles" or UAVs) to launch missiles to kill people (including journalists, people at weddings, ...) by remote control: the "pilots" are sitting comfortably back in the USA, where they can go home at night and watch Family Guy.
I would like everyone to watch this documentary about the Drone Wars and the beginning of the age of killer robots: http://mediastorm.com/clients/2015-icp-infinity-awards-photojounalism-tomas-van-houtryve

Is it odd for me, a software developer, to oppose technological progress? Well, in the first place, I don't consider this "progress". If a government wants to wage war, let it do it on the ground, and let the legislators send their own sons and daughters to be the first to be sent to the slaughter. Second, and more important, the fact that you can automate something does not mean that you should.

A slightly longer range concern is that murder machines (which are, in fact, weapons of mass destruction) will be programmed to kill humans based on that same inadequate information, and do so autonomously, that is, without a human being having to authorize the decision to commit murder. Stop Killer Robots is an organization set up to warn about the (obvious) perils. Sci-Fi writers have written for literally decades about the perils of autonomous robots mis-construing their orders. And if we are, indeed, at a point in time near to the Singularity - when artificial intelligence software becomes self-aware and becomes "smarter" than humans, can the same software industry that routinely allows hackers to steal credit cards by the thousands, prevent the smarter AI from taking over the killer robots and turning them on their human creators? Think of the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion. Unfortunately, this is no longer just speculation. Think about all the things in Sci-Fi that people have brought into reality. This would be the last one, ever. The end.

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