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The Pentagon Inches Toward Letting AI Control Weapons

The Pentagon has been conducting a series of experiments in which artificial intelligence is the main driving force behind weapons’ performance. Last August, the military conducted a test with drones and robots, deploying them over a vast expanse of land south of Seattle. The machines were tasked with finding terrorists suspected of hiding among several buildings. The mission was an exercise seeking to determine whether the machines were capable of acting autonomously and completing tasks such as locating persons of interest.

The drill signifies how artificial intelligence could help expand the use of automation in military systems, including in situations too complex and fast-paced for humans to make timely and accurate critical decisions. It has become clear that machines can outperform humans at assessing complex situations, and they can do it much faster too. The decision that is at the end of all the testing and drills is whether the Pentagon will eventually allow for lethal force to be implemented in the US military’s autonomous systems. Several military commanders have recommended giving autonomous weapons systems more agency, stating that AI machines should perform more low-risk activities such as identifying and distinguishing potential targets while the high-level decisions are left up to humans.

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