Sept. 6, 2016
Heather Roff and Peter Singer wrote for Wired about the cybersecurity and cyberwar implications of the next President:
The next President will have a range of issues on their plate, from how to deal with growing tensions with China and Russia, to an ongoing war against ISIS. But perhaps the most important decision they will make for overall human history is what to do about autonomous weapons systems (AWS), aka “killer robots.” The new president will literally have no choice. It is not just that the technology is rapidly advancing, but because of a ticking time bomb buried in US policy on the issue.
In 2012, the Obama administration created Department of Defense Directive 3000.09, which sets policy on how the Pentagon handles the questions of this new technology. However, the directive has a 5-year limit, meaning that Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will need to decide what the US policy on killer robots will be within the first year of their term.
It sounds like science fiction to think that a president will have to wrestle with the idea of robots outside of direct human control taking on a combat role, but that is where the technology is headed. Just as we see the increasing use and acceptance of driverless cars, the same is playing out in the realm of war. The US military already has more than 10,000 unmanned aerial systems (aka “drones”) in its inventory and another 12,000 on the ground. Early versions, like the Predator, were almost completely remote controlled, but each new version has gained in intelligence and autonomy. While we are not in the world of the Terminator, robots have already shown the ability to do complex tasks on their own, such as take off and land from aircraft carriers and track targets, be they anything from a human to a submarine. Many air defense and cybersecurity roles are almost completely automated already.