Should the mass proliferation of AI-driven war drones and robots be left uncontrolled?

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The Chinese government, as I hope our MoD, will have noticed the important article of Nicholas Chaillan ‘To catch up with China, the Pentagon needs a new #AI strategy“, published in the Tuesday 23rd of November issue of the Financial Times.

As indicated, Mr Chaillan was formerly the first chief software officer at the US Air Force and Space Force. He is now the chief technology officer at cybersecurity firm Prevent Beach. The article points out the shocking “kindergarten-level” of US military/Pentagon cybersecurity in the US’ critical national infrastructure and that the next war will be software-defined: “It won’t be won with a $1.7tn programme of fifth generation F35 fighter jets or $12bn aircraft carriers. China can take down our power grid without firing a single shot”.

This could not be truer. Moreover, conflicts made of swarms of AI-driven drones and robots, are not science-fiction anymore. Tens of Armenian and Artsakh Republic servicemen have been blown up before our eyes during the 2020 Karabagh war by Israeli and Turkish built drones, as generously broadcasted by the Azerbaijani MoD. Sir Nicholas Carter, Chief of the UK defence staff, who also watched, drew the conclusion that the British Army should equip itself with thousands of drones, to face such a future new type of war. As to war robots, they soon will be seen on the battlefield and their development seems inevitable.

Or is it? I cannot but ask myself what sort of nightmarish world are we again preparing for our children? If, instead of allowing the free development of AI driven weapons, Parliament should not check the mass production of such weapons? And if the UK government should not discuss with its counterparts, including the Chinese and Russian, their proliferation, just as for nuclear weapons?

As if we do not, the further possibility to one day see our skies filled with swarms of AI-driven flying machines, way more intelligent and lethal than V1s or a V2s, and waves of thousands of AI driven war robots on the battlefield, could unfortunately be real.

* Christian de Vartavan is an eminent scholar and now CEO of a London blockchain consulting company.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Jenny Barnes 30th Nov '21 - 3:11pm

    The economist has reviewed a book “The Age of AI” by Henry Kissinger et al. The review suggests that “Interactions between rivals will become harder to predict and conflicts more difficult to limit” because strategic & tactical decisions are being taken in ways that are opaque to human intelligence – like the recent winning AI GO game. Deterrence relies on knowing one’s opponents capabilities and them knowing yours – with AI that may be impossible.

  • Laurence Cox 30th Nov '21 - 3:21pm

    China can take down our power grid without firing a single shot.

    This is certainly true, and a cyber-security expert I was corresponding with a couple of years ago said much the same thing. What is possibly more concerning, is that there are non-state actors who could do the same thing. We need to remember that WannaCry was simply a ransomware attack with no ulterior political motive.

  • Steve Trevethan 30th Nov '21 - 4:28pm
  • Matt Wardman 1st Dec '21 - 10:46am

    I guess there are two obvious questions.

    1 – How do you propose stopping our enemies producing thousands of said drones?
    2 – How will we defend ourselves if 1 is not achieved?

    Counterpunch relevant? Probably not 🙂 .

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