Has a rampaging AI algorithm really killed thousands in Pakistan?

A US Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile stands on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport. Photograph: Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images A killer AI has gone on a rampage through Pakistan, slaughtering perhaps thousands of people. At least that’s the impression you’d get if you read this report from Ars Technica (based on NSA documents leaked by The Intercept), which claims that a machine learning algorithm guiding U.S. drones – unfortunately named ‘SKYNET’ – could have wrongly targeted numerous innocent civilians. Let’s start with the facts. For the last decade or so, the United States has used unmanned drones to attack militants in Pakistan. The number of kills is unknown, but estimates start at over a thousand and range up to maybe four thousand. A key problem for the intelligence…


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