One General believes that the advancements in drone technology will move war out of our control, but one question remains.
In just two years, we’ve seen drones shrink from luggage-size metal blocks to palm-sized Micro Quadcopters. With advancements in affordability, camera quality, and collision avoidance, there’s no doubt that this new technology will swarm into the mainstream in 2018, but what about the application of this tech?
Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell raised concerns this morning to Fairfax media about artificially intelligent drones which can kill at their own will, potentially giving foreign enemies a leading edge in military combat. Not only could this threaten our national security, but it also raises significant ethical quandaries – drones being dubbed a game changer on the battle fronts by The Economist Magazine.
Unmanned Predator drones were first used by the CIA in 2002, striking the Afghan city of Khost. Since then, we have seen off-the-shelf drones used by terrorist organisations to drop grenade-sized bombs on US troops and disrupt airstrikes in Syria.
General Campbell states “We (…) will always be asking the question, ‘What is the right ethical construct, and ultimately behaviour and actions?’ Others will not (…) That is absolutely a threat to any nation-state that believes in the laws of war and in ethical conduct.”
Such revolutionary, unmanned technology will likely speed up warfare, but experts are starting to warn that “humans simply won’t be able to keep up.” General Mark Milley shared his vision of the future at the US Army’s Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast where robotics and AI are fused with US military initiatives. Old, trusted technologies are quickly becoming obsolete on our battlefronts. “If we do not recognise the need for change, and if we do not adapt and pivot to that change then, in my mind, that will be a grave strategic mistake,” General Milley states.
Likewise, General Campbell emphasised that “it is not guaranteed that less ethical armies will be better at fighting.”
The fears that Campell raised present a large one for the rest of us. Are we willing to allow the guns to be taken out of our hands? And more importantly, if fighting by proxy is the humanist solution, can we refuse our most basic programming and impulses, and let go of war?