Autonomous Weapons Systems

There is always a man in the loop as per defense officials in all deployed weapons. Only low tech booby traps such as land mines work completely autonomous. AI is moving ahead in the direction of fully autonomous systems. If it has bugs or is confusing or for whatever reasons doesn’t behave as expected. There are recorded misadventures of fully autonomous systems in the past. The future cannot be left to the wild growth of AI engulfing us. Autonomous weapons systems are a matter of grave concern.

The nuclear arms race has its international protocols, validation & inspections and has been kept under control despite the efforts of the rogue nations. The main worry now is the initiation of an arms race in AI weapons. The beauty of the autonomous weapons would be they would select & engage the targets without human intervention. What would be the fate if it lands up in wrong hands or hacked in some way or the other and gained control of. Such systems are practically possible within years.

Autonomous Weapons Systems

Like the Industrial Revolution 4.0, autonomous weapons can be termed as Warfare 3.0; the third revolution in warfare after gunpowder & nuclear weapons. It will bring down casualties for sure. But If any major military power initiates AI weapon development, a global arms race is likely to follow. Quite unlike the costly nuclear weapons & complex technology , the autonomous weapons systems can end up in mass production in a very short span. It can be used from assassinations to ethnic cleansing.

Human history gives us a cue for the future. Chemists & biologists generally show no interest in chemical & biological weapons. In a similar fashion most AI researchers does not seem to be inclined to create an AI weapons future. Chemists & biologists have supported international agreements prohibiting chemical / biological weapons. Historical precedent becomes the roadmap. This trajectory can & should be the only way forward AI in this field.


By Sanjay Sahay

He belongs to the 1989 batch of the IPS, borne on Karnataka cadre. Accomplished high degree of professionalism in wide and varied professional assignments.  

He finally got groomed and refined into an officer who has 360 degrees experience of all policing tasks, simultaneously maintaining keen interest in all staff functions and a passion for usage of appropriate technology in policing at all levels and in all fields. Know More        

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Autonomous Weapons Systems