A look at autonomous weapons, especially in combination with advanced artificial intelligence, and their long-range implications for the future of the human race.
Physicist and inventor Del Monte (Nanoweapons, 2017, etc.) begins with the development of autonomous weapons, those capable of launching attacks without direct human control. While the U.S. military has rules forbidding the development of such weapons, the fact is that several current systems are only a short step from full autonomy. Furthermore, Russia, China, and other world powers are working on autonomous systems of their own. These could include drones that choose their own targets or swarms of fly-sized “nanobots” that launch synchronized attacks. Given the strategic situations of the different nations, it appears inevitable that such weapons will eventually be deployed—and possibly used in warfare. However, frightening as that scenario is, it’s not the author’s primary concern. He foresees the development of AI progressing to the point where a computer is more intelligent, and in possession of more information, than any human. He predicts that this development could occur as early as 2050. How would such a machine view its human builders? Del Monte worries that it would read our history of warfare and destruction as a threat to its own existence; consequently, it would likely take action to ensure its own survival. Such actions could include persuading humans to adopt computer-enhanced intelligence or to upload themselves into computer programs, thus tying their own existence to the AI’s survival. But it is also possible that an advanced AI would decide to do away with humanity altogether—a goal it could realize more easily if it were in control of autonomous weaponry. The author argues that systems must be put in place to ensure ultimate human control of any such AI. Unfortunately, the narrative is frequently repetitive, and Del Monte’s prose is far from polished. But readers willing to plow through the textual thickets will find important insights.
For specialists and military readers.