These days it's the norm hearing about killer robots with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). It is on the top of the list of weapons that the United Nations wants banned. While the world looks far and away from coming to an agreement on individual and nuclear armamens, one can't help but wonder if humanity is ready for a new generation of armaments and a campaign against it? This is an issue we will be searching for an answer in the following years.
However, the danger of killer robots is quite real. Think about an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), known as a drone, which is the size of a butterfly. It flies, directing itself with its artificial intelligence. Its processor makes it move 100 times faster than a human. It has a camera like your cellphone. It has facial recognition technology. However, this small drone, which looks very innocent, has another feature: It carries three grams of explosives. What does that mean? This UAV, flying like a butterfly, is like a sniper.
Accessible for everyone
It can locate a person of interest thanks to face recognition technology and attack. If your intentions are evil, you can use both explosives and chemicals in a drone attack. Furthermore, the size of these drones can be minimized. They can cause the deaths of scores, even thousands of people on public transport vehicles, such as planes, trains and buses, if they fall into wrong hands. An attack like this can be carried out by a terrorist, for example the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., or an insane person. The scariest part is the possibility that anyone who has technical information can turn drones, which can be easily bought online, into a weapon. How likely is this possibility?
Daily Sabah discussed this issue with British artificial intelligence expert Stuart J. Russell, a professor of computer engineering at the University of California, during his visit to Turkey.
Drawing attention to this issue with a gruesome video entitled "Slaughterbot," which he prepared last year, Russell said, "The possibility of killer robots is very high. These attacks are actually present. Drone attacks, terrorists are already a reality. It is known that drone attacks were carried out on the Russian military base in Syria in January and March. We collect signatures to move against the issue within the frame of the 'Stop Killer Robots' campaign, which has been running for five years and where academics and entrepreneurs from the four corners of the world attend. We call on countries to take necessary steps in order to prevent the vicious use of autonomous vehicles."
Russell needs no reminding that machines that can't develop an initiative themselves can be turned into killers in human hands.
"We know that countries do not want to reveal their own hands as they do not know others' capabilities. We can see that at the international meetings that we attend because of the campaign. On the other hand, the drone attack to the Russian base which was conducted two months ago is also realistic. How can machines' possibility to turn into weapons be more realistic? Therefore, people need to protest this issue as they did against some social events in the world and create pressure on politicians."
We interviewed Russell before the U.N. convened and the topic of the deadly autonomous weapons agreement is discussed in detail one more time in Geneva next week.
Some 20 countries made a call to stop killer robots, and Russell said he hopes that the number of countries who sign the agreement will increase.
First drone attack officially announced
Russia's Defense Ministry reported that at least 13 handmade drones attacked the Khmeimim Air Base in Latakia and Tartus in Syria on Jan. 6 and shared its photos. While it is noted as the first official, military drone attack, it was also implied that the attack was carried by unidentified people.
Did a 'Terminator-like war' begin?
In an analysis that published after the attack in January, the Russian Sputnik news agency said, "Military experts concluded that the drones that were used in the attacks on the Russian Khmeimim and Tarsus bases in Syria were the same type that the U.S. has, and these drones were used by PKK-linked Democratic Union Party (PYD) before. The second drone attack on Khmeimim was carried out in March."
First drone assassination attempt on a leader
On Aug. 5, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro escaped unharmed from a drone assassination attempt while he was giving a speech during celebrations of the 81st anniversary of the National Army's establishment.