Will the US Military Use “Terminator” Drones?
In about 10 years, Terminator drones are going to be a very real thing. Basically these are drones that can identify and kill targets (or whatever they’re programmed to do). But will the US military indulge in this new technology? Well let’s just say their answer leaves something to be desired…
“Terminator drones” is a nickname for robots that learn entirely by their own observation with virtually no human input. You could essentially teach the robots to do anything; but as the nickname implies, these ones are designed to kill enemies. So will our military be using them? Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military has already decided that they won’t be using this technology when it eventually becomes available. But the rest of his comments don’t seem so reassuring.
Selva emphasizes that the reason these Terminator drones won’t be used is because the technology isn’t advanced enough to rule out errors; he says humans will always be involved in the process to an extent. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in “developing man-machine teaming capabilities.” So warfare in 10 years might look more like Iron Man than the Terminator.
So while Selva reassures us that the US won’t be using Terminator drones, I’m not convinced. For one thing, he’s worried that other countries might start developing this type of technology. And if you know anything about history, you know that if our enemies are developing new technology, that means we have to keep up. “I think we do need to examine the bodies of law and convention that might constrain anyone in the world from building that kind of [completely autonomous warfighting] system. But I’m wholly conscious of the fact that, even if we do that, there will be violators,” he said. So basically Terminator drones could be the next nuclear weapon: subject to tons of regulations and laws.
But as Selva admits, this kind of regulation doesn’t always work. On one hand, chemical weapons– which are a big no-no– are still used all the time. On the other hand, we invaded a country because we claimed they had weapons of mass destruction– and they didn’t. So this kind of weapon regulation brings a lot of false-positives and false-negatives with it.
While the US says they won’t be using these Terminator drones anytime soon, that doesn’t mean they won’t be developing them. So if you read any headlines about Russia, China, or Iran developing this kind of technology, you can bet we’re working on the same thing.