Архив метки: drone

Lethal Microdrones, Dystopian Futures, and the Autonomous Weapons Debate

The future of weaponized robots requires a reasoned discussion, not scary videos

In "Slaughterbots," a film created by a group of academics concerned about autonomous weapons, terrorists deploy swarms of explosive-carrying microdrones to kill thousands of people.
Image: Slaughterbots/YouTube
In «Slaughterbots,» a film created by a group of academics concerned about lethal autonomous weapons, swarms of explosive-carrying microdrones are used to kill thousands of people.

Over the weekend, however, I came across a video that struck me as a disturbing contribution to the autonomous weapons debate. The video, called “Slaughterbots” and produced with support from Elon Musk’s Future of Life Institute, combines graphic violence with just enough technical plausibility to imagine a very bleak scenario: A fictional near future in which autonomous explosive-carrying microdrones are killing thousands of people around the world.

We are not going to embed the video here because it contains a number of violent scenes, including a terrorist attack in a classroom (!). You can find it on the Future of Life website.

It’s very disappointing to me that robotics and AI researchers who I otherwise have a lot of respect for would support this kind of sensationalism that seems designed to shock and scare people rather than impart any sort of useful information about what the actual problem is. The message here seems to be that if you’re interested in having a discussion about these issues, or if you think that perhaps there might be other, potentially more effective ways of shaping the future of autonomous weapons besides calling for a ban, then you’re siding with terrorists. This is a dismally familiar form of rhetoric that has been shown to be effective when the objective is not to communicate facts, but rather exploit emotions and fears. Another problem is that videos like this, created and promoted by academics, might make the public more distrustful and afraid of robots in general, which is something the robotics community has long been fighting against.

Personally, I am not for “killer robots.” I am not for “autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control,” either. I find it difficult to support an outright ban at this point because I think doing so would be a potentially ineffective solution to a complex problem that has not yet been fully characterized. AI and arms-control experts are still debating what, specifically, should be regulated or banned, and how it would be enforced. Saying “we have an opportunity to prevent the future you just saw,” as UC Berkeley professor Stuart Russell, one of the creators of “Slaughterbots,” does at the end of the video, is an oversimplification—in my opinion, a ban on autonomous weapons won’t prevent the miniaturization of drones, won’t prevent advances in facial-recognition technology, and likely won’t prevent the integration of the two, which is just the scenario that “Slaughterbots” presents.

Asked if the film is relying on fear-mongering, one of Russell’s colleagues, Toby Walsh, an AI professor at the University of New South Wales, disagrees. “It’s not fear-mongering,” he says. “The Russian Ambassador to the UN just said to the CCW meeting that we don’t have to worry about lethal autonomous weapons because they’re too distant to necessitate worrying about. To the contrary, the film was designed to demonstrate how near we are to autonomous weapons. It shows what happens if you put together some existing technologies and the misuses to which such technology could be put.”

Two years ago, I responded to the first open letter calling for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons by presenting an alternate perspective about why autonomous weapons might also be beneficial. Russell and Walsh, along with MIT professor Max Tegmark, kindly responded in an article published in IEEE Spectrum, which started with the following:

“We welcome Evan Ackerman’s contribution to the discussion on a proposed ban on offensive autonomous weapons. This is a complex issue and there are interesting arguments on both sides that need to be weighed up carefully.” 

I totally agree. Having this discussion now is the best way to work towards a more peaceful future, but to do that, we have to have the discussion, not make scary videos designed to vilify the people we disagree with while reinforcing the unrealistic and increasingly negative perception that many people already have about robotics.


Как прятаться от летающих роботов

Трудно укрыться от робота стоимостью 4,5 миллиона долларов, который патрулирует небо над головой и оснащён по последнему слову техники. Но арабским экстремистам, которые воюют против вооружённой до зубов армии США, приходится решать эту задачу. Недавно среди документов на брошенной базе экстремистов в Тимбукту (Мали) была обнаружена брошюра (PDF) с описанием 22 способов, как противостоять наблюдению с воздуха, сообщает агентство AP.

Брошюра содержит в том числе простые советы. Например, ставить машину в тени густых деревьев, замаскировать её сверху, чтобы она сливалась с окружающей территорией. Измазать автомобиль в грязи. Не использовать беспроводные коммуникации.

Есть и более технологичные рекомендации. Например, рекомендуется применять портативный радар для отслеживания беспилотников. Прибор российского производства стоит около $2600. Есть также российские приборы для создания помех в коммуникациях беспилотников.

Экстремисты принимают во внимание, что роботы обычно летают по установленным маршрутам и делают видеосъёмку. Картинка поступает в центр управления, где её анализируют операторы. Обычно не используется система компьютерного распознавания образов или датчики движения, так что замаскировать автомобиль можно относительно простыми способами.

Беспилотные летательные аппараты пока применяют только в военных операциях, но полиция США тоже вынашивает планы использовать их для патрулирования городов и слежки за гражданскими лицами. Естественно, в этом случае роботов не будут оснащать тяжёлым вооружением. Несмотря на вполне мирные цели, использование летающих роботов в городах вызвало озабоченность у Фонда электронных рубежей и других правозащитных организаций. Они считают, что развёртывание инфраструктуры для беспилотников на территории США происходит без достаточного информирования публики.

На карте отмечены города США, где полиция и другие организации получили лицензии на использование беспилотников.

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