Autonomous weapons systems: experts warn of loss of control

Autonomous weapons systems: experts warn of loss of control

Researchers have warned in the federal parliament of a loss of control and a new betting frenzy due to the increasing automation of weapons.

However, it is still a long way to autonomous weapon systems (AWS) that act autonomously, learning and without human control, as a report discussed by scientists and politicians in the committee for technology impact assessment makes clear. Several experts spoke in favor of moving forward with efforts to reach international agreements to limit new technologies.

"Robotic weapons systems that can select and engage targets without human intervention were not long ago exclusive to the realm of science fiction," the report said. "The enormous technological advances made in recent years in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) have now pushed this notion of autonomously acting weapons to the threshold of concrete implementation."

Researcher frank flemisch of the fraunhofer institute for communication presented a video showing american f-18 fighter jets dropping drones that engage targets like a swarm of coarse hornets – and also make a similar sound. It called autonomous weapon systems a disruptive technology. He referred to warnings that the pandora’s box could be opened too quickly. At the same time, the bundeswehr feared being overwhelmed by the technology of possible opponents. For the area of cyber-attacks, it had been discussed whether one could only work defensively. However, it has been found that one then very quickly "stands with one’s back to the wall" – and with autonomous weapon systems the situation is comparable.

The reason for the deployment could be the faster reaction time of machines without remote control or also the saving of personnel, said jurgen altmann, physicist and peace researcher at the tu dortmund. Swarms of possibly thousands of drones could also "sattigen", i.E. Overtax a defense. "The main players are the u.S., russia and china, who are watching each other closely," he said. The world community is faced with the following question: "what has priority, the actual military strong or the international security"."

"Autonomous weapon systems in the strict sense of the word, i.E., armed unmanned platforms capable of acting in a targeted manner in combat operations in a complex, dynamic environment without any human control, do not yet exist," the report states. "However, armed unmanned systems that have a relatively high degree of automation or autonomy are already operational in a variety of weapon classes. Autonomy and can therefore be classified as a precursor to AWS."

Johanna polle of the institute for peace research and security policy (IFSH) warned of human loss of control. There is a threat of a new arms race and an increasing acceleration of warfare without time to think about decisions.

Anja dahlmann, an expert from the science and policy foundation (SWP), shed light on the state of regulatory efforts and the importance that humans should have in target selection. "How do we implement human control in a prohibition treaty or a prohibition treaty??", she asked. Russia rejects any regulation, even the USA is critical of it, as she said. Great britain and france are against regulation. Austria is the only EU country and countries from africa and latin america that will not develop their own systems in the foreseeable future are in favor of a ban. China work with a funny definition and at the same time work on the new weapon systems.

Frank sauer from the university of the german armed forces in munich explained the complexity of the automated network of modern weapons systems, from reconnaissance aircraft to missiles fired from ships. There is therefore no single, specific weapon system that can be banned. Rather, it is a question of determining the relationship between man and machine in the military. "The motto cannot be ban killer robots, auber as a slogan," he warned. The aim of regulation must be to keep people meaningfully involved in the use of weapons. "Rustic control is for national security," he said.

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