Autonomous weapons systems from the lens of intellectuals | Sunday Observer

Autonomous weapons systems from the lens of intellectuals

19 March, 2023

In the good old days, featuring autonomous weapon systems in science fiction movies was not such a hyperbole which brought the protagonist of the movie into overnight stardom, but a sine-qua-non fantasy that spellbound the ardent movie goers in Hollywood.

Today they have invaded engineering laboratories and battlefields. Autonomous weapon systems have got a number of operational advantages that mainly comprise speed and agility.

Autonomous weapon systems saw expeditious and swift proliferation. This specific technology is currently concentrated in a few powerful and affluent countries which possess the resources needed in order to invest hugely in research, conducted on the advanced robotic technologies embedded with Artificial intelligence (AI).

Killer robots

According to (Scharre, 2019), it is projected that Moore’s Law (observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles about every two years), the slumping cost of production that includes 3D printing, will instantly enable a considerable number of both state and non-state actors to acquire killer robots.

In that context, Dr. Krishantha Kapugama, a military strategist and an academician points out some advantages of further developing and deploying of autonomous weapon systems.

He highlights the fact that autonomous weapon systems act in the form of a ‘force multiplier’. Any mission will need fewer soldiers where simultaneously the virtue, efficacy and potency of every soldier is considered being of a higher and greater quantity.

It is also noted that autonomous weapon systems have the potential of expanding the battlefields into areas which were previously inaccessible. Dr. Kapugama says that autonomous weapon systems are being praised as a tool that is able to reduce the number of casualties by removing human soldiers from missions that are critical and perilous.

Better than humans

Researchers highlight that the Pentagon’s Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2007-2032 dispenses further motivations for the purpose of stalking autonomous weapons systems. It is further declared that more than that of the humans, robots are far better suited for “tedious”, “menacing” and “vicious” missions, taken up. Justifying the above, Clapper et al. (2018) declared, “examples given for each respective category of mission include long sorties, bomb disposal and operating in nuclear clouds or areas with radioactivity”.

Jeffrey S. Thurnher of the United States Naval War College said, “LARs (Lethal Autonomous Robots) have the potential to operate at a tempo faster than humans can possibly achieve and to lethally strike even when communication links have been severed.”

Dr. Kapugama said that some roboticists, as well as military experts, have come up with an argument that autonomous weapon systems should not only be considered as scrupulously and morally admissible and tolerable but that, in point of fact, would be morally desirable to human fighters.

Humane manner

Agreeing with the comments made by Roboticist Ronald Arkin, Dr Kapugama says that due to a number of reasons, robots will be able to provide their service, in a more humane manner in the battlefield in the near future.

This does not mean that autonomous weapon systems can select and attack a target without human intervention. Dr. Kapugama affirms that these systems have got the absolute potential of revolutionising warfare where he further notes that there are researchers who would rather suggest that these systems would be faster and briskly, more authentic and accurate and more supple and resilient than that of the existing weapon systems and could limit the number of casualties in war.

Some military experts are of the view that autonomous weapon systems not only confer notable and compelling strategic and tactical advantages or whip hand in the battlefield but also, they are desirable on moral grounds to the use of human combatants.

Dr. Kapugama says, “Autonomous weapon systems may benefit humans, as the utilisation of them may result in fewer casualties. Militaries may utilize such systems in order to replace manually operated fighter aircraft where the potential risk to the pilots is removed.”

Artificial Intelligence

In that light, Artificial Intelligence becomes an important element of autonomous weapon systems, Dr Kapugama also comments that artificial intelligence is merely a trivial part of an entire holistic kind of a programme.

“When you have the deep learning, machine learning and human-level intelligence, it mimics as humans.” Dr. Kapugama also notes that a cross-section of the scientific community is of the view that artificial intelligence, as well as autonomous weapon systems, pave the way for rather nasty and precarious circumstances, they can be used in the best way possible in numerous situations.

“You shouldn’t attempt to make the general audience scared. Researchers who conduct small-scale researches on the aspect of AI would declare that it is a very dangerous weapon. But AI can be used in many good things. AI is a much better technology which can enhance the entire spectrum of weaponry. If you were in a battle, you have an OODA loop which stands for “Observation, Orientation, Decision and Action.”

You get a massive amount of information with the OODA loop. Information and intelligence are of immense importance. Apart from that data mining too is an important element. As you model data, it will be in a good logical framework.

Therefore, by using AI, these enormous amounts of unstructured data can be converted into meaningful data where it can be utilized in order to take a prompt and quick decision. Hence, I would rather prefer to highlight in the fact that it is rather important to use AI in weaponry,” Dr. Kapugama remarks.

Dr. Kapugama says that AI has got a substantial potential that is able to benefit humanity in many ways; it would revolutionize the five domains of military - maritime, land, air, space, cyber and electromagnetic in the future.