US Army clarifies its killer robot plans
By Danny Bradbury, Sophos
The US Army has been forced to clarify its intentions for killer robots after unveiling a new program to build AI-powered targeting systems.
The controversy surrounds the Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (ATLAS). Created by the Department of Defense, it is a program to develop:
That text comes from the US Army, which has announced an industry day taking place next week to brief industry and academia on its progress so far, and to source new expertise.
To translate, ATLAS is a project to make ground robots that are capable of finding and shooting at targets more quickly than people can. This raises the spectre of lethal AI once again.
Ethicists and scientists are already hotly debating this issue. Some 2,400 scientists and other AI experts including Elon Musk and DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis signed a pledge under the banner of the Boston-based Future of Life Institute protesting the development of killer AI.
The Army clearly realizes the controversial nature of the project, because it updated the industry day document last week to include new language:
Directive 3000.9 is a 2012 DoD document outlining the policy associated with developing autonomous weapons. It says:
According to specialist publication Defense One, the US DoD is already fielding broader ethical guidelines for the adoption of AI across various military functions.
Meanwhile, tensions are high around the technology industryís engagement with the military. Google faced an employee revolt after signing up for a Pentagon AI project called Project Maven to help automate video and image footage analysis. The company has since announced that it wonít renew Maven when it expires this year, and also refused to bid on the DoDís massive JEDI cloud computing contract, arguing that it might not align with the ethical AI principles that it introduced last year.
Microsoft, on the other hand, continues to engage the DoD, announcing last October that it will sell the military AI technology in spite of protests from its own employees.