I do apologize for being incredibly absent. It was essentially 25 days ago that I made my last post, which is very neglectful of me. I have a number of things I’d like to talk about, but I’ve been incredibly busy in my personal life. Maybe unsurprisingly, this meager, tiny little blog is really not my day job…
Anyway, I thought it about time that I broke my silence, and I think I’ve got a rather interesting (and somewhat scary) development for you: I was perusing the international news, and found a piece stating that the USA fully supports developing, testing, and using [autonomous military robots], without delay.
I’m sure there are other versions, but I found a link from slashdot going through The Bulletin stating that directive 3000.09 is not, as some have apparently stated, one of caution, but one which “overrides longstanding resistance within the military, establishes a framework for managing legal, ethical, and technical concerns, and signals to developers and vendors that the Pentagon is serious about autonomous weapons”.
Now I don’t know about you, but I find that troubling. Not because I think these machines may go Skynet on us, but simply because I don’t know how good we are at defining “the enemy” and knowing that most soldiers do not actually try to kill. A robot designed specifically to kill, however, would carry out its programming perfectly.
I don’t know if you know this, but only about 15% of soldiers (according to a number of studies of WWII data and beyond) actually try to kill the enemy, even when their own life is threatened. This is because most people are not functional psychopaths. Those people who are functional psychopaths make up a small but incredibly effective minority and are responsible for the vast number of actual kills during any engagement. Functional psychopaths lack real empathy, but have learned to fake it well enough that they do not generally act unkindly (they only seem to care, they don’t actually care – this makes them very effective users of people). What bootcamp and basic training tries to do is to suppress the part of you which is human and turn you into a tool which will follow orders. It’s remarkably good at it; following on from the initial work (which you can read more about in Lt. Col Dave Grossman’s book “On Killing” – Amazon link only for example, I’m not shilling for them), changes have been made which teach methods of acting which are intended to short-circuit the empathy circuit: for example, soldiers are now trained in “suppressing fire” (shooting in the enemy’s general direction, rather than specifically at somebody) and to shoot at silhouettes rather than at actual pictures. If you can dehumanize the target, killing it is all that much easier.
I digress: we’re really insistent that articles of clothing, faith, skin colour, height, language or any other superficial differences make us different. I’m not sure a robot will see things the same way. The worst case scenario is to have autonomous robots go on a carefully planned and meticulously carried out genocidal maneuver where they simply massacre everyone because that’s the efficient thing to do. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be effective, I’m saying that like nuclear weapons, I would hope that we’d rather end warfare through agreeing not to be dickbags to one another rather than to let the robots murder everyone you don’t agree with.
I’m all for the end of war, and overall I’m rather glad that we have nuclear weapons because that’s made enough people think twice about actually doing anything even remotely world war-like. I’m worried that wars may end up worse rather than better with super efficient killing machines simply because they’ll be rather meticulous about murder and will do the job properly, unlike every soldier ever in any other war, where the robots just don’t know who is supposed to be friendly, or maybe not understanding when they’re supposed to stop.
So please, if you’re one of those dickbags thinking of poking the sleeping dragon of the USA with a stick (I’m looking at you, al qaeda), please don’t. You can never win against the United States, all you can do is further the plans of those who would profit from violence, and all of those people live in America and are American to begin with. Extremist Islam is a joke, a very painful, pointless joke. Nothing of consequence will ever come from such a backwards, violent, insular culture. Only those who would leave it or change it for a better life (whether they retain their faith or not) will achieve anything remotely resembling success. They have the nukes, space planes and submarines. They win. And if you make them find new ways of destroying you from an armchair in Washington, they will.
If only somebody with peaceful intentions and an intellect to match could come up with some all-encompassing AI designed to satisfy all our true needs and make terminator robots obsolete…