Autonomous weapons: Not just smarter smart bombs

It’s easy to assume that autonomous weapons will, as their technological capacity improves, someday surpass human beings in their decision-making capacity on the battlefield. Humans, after all, get tired. They are easily misguided, or ideologically bent, or lack good judgment. Technologically sophisticated weapons, meanwhile, will not suffer from any of these failings. But this assumption has no grounds in reality, and it is a poor basis on which to make decisions about the future of autonomous weapons. My roundtable colleague Paulo Santos writes that no scientific evidence supports the idea that machines might ever “demonstrate human-level intelligence.” But he doesn’t dismiss the thought that “Autonomous weapons might reduce civilian casualties to a bare minimum even as they improve the odds for successful missions.” Here he walks a fine and somewhat…


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