Ex-Google laborer fears ‘killer robots’ could cause mass atrocities
Another generation of independent weapons or “killer robots” could unintentionally begin a war or cause mass atrocities, a previous top Google software engineer has cautioned.
Laura Nolan, who left Google a year ago in challenge at being sent to work at a project to drastically improve US military drone innovation, has required all AI murdering machines not worked by people to be banned.
Nolan said killer robots not guided by human remote control ought to be outlawed by a similar kind of international treaty that bans chemical weapons.
In contrast to drones, which are constrained by military teams regularly a large number of miles from where the flying weapon is being sent, Nolan said killer robots can possibly do “calamitous things that they were not originally programmed for”.
There is no recommendation that Google is engaged with the improvement of autonomous weapons systems. A month ago an UN board of government experts discussed autonomous weapons and observed Google to eschewing AI for use in weapons systems and taking part in best practice.
Nolan, who has joined the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and has informed UN diplomats in New York and Geneva over the dangers presented via autonomous weapons, stated: “The likelihood of a disaster is in proportion to how many of these machines will be in a particular area at once. What you are looking at are possible atrocities and unlawful killings even under laws of warfare, especially if hundreds or thousands of these machines are deployed.
“There could be large-scale accidents because these things will start to behave in unexpected ways. Which is why any advanced weapons systems should be subject to meaningful human control, otherwise they have to be banned because they are far too unpredictable and dangerous.”
Google selected Nolan, a software engineering move on from Trinity College Dublin, to work with Project Maven in 2017 after she had been employed by the tech giant for a long time, getting to be one of its top programming engineers in Ireland.
She said she turned out to be “increasingly ethically concerned” over her job in the Maven program, which was conceived to help the US Department of Defense drastically accelerate drone video recognition innovation.
Rather than utilizing huge quantities of military agents to spool through a long stretch of time of drone video film of potential enemy targets, Nolan and others were approached to manufacture a system where AI machines could separate people and articles at an infinitely quicker rate.
Google permitted the Project Maven contract to slip by in March this year after more than 3,000 of its workers marked an petition in challenge against the company’s inclusion.
“As a site reliability engineer my expertise at Google was to ensure that our systems and infrastructures were kept running, and this is what I was supposed to help Maven with. Although I was not directly involved in speeding up the video footage recognition I realised that I was still part of the kill chain; that this would ultimately lead to more people being targeted and killed by the US military in places like Afghanistan.”
Despite the fact that she surrendered over Project Maven, Nolan has anticipated that autonomous weapons being created represent a far more serious hazard to human race than remote-controlled drones.
She laid out how outside powers running from changing weather systems to machines being not able work out complex human conduct may lose killer robots course, with potentially fatal consequences.
“They could have a scenario where autonomous weapons that have been sent out to do a job confront unexpected radar signals in an area they are searching; there could be weather that was not factored into its software or they come across a group of armed men who appear to be insurgent enemies but in fact are out with guns hunting for food. The machine doesn’t have the discernment or common sense that the human touch has.”
The other scary thing about these self-governing war systems is that they can just truly test them by sending them in a genuine combat zone. Possibly that is going on with the Russians at present in Syria, who knows? What they can be sure of is that at the UN Russia has restricted any treaty let alone ban on these weapons coincidentally.
“If you are testing a machine that is making its own decisions about the world around it then it has to be in real time. Besides, how do you train a system that runs solely on software how to detect subtle human behaviour or discern the difference between hunters and insurgents? How does the killing machine out there on its own flying about distinguish between the 18-year-old combatant and the 18-year-old who is hunting for rabbits?”
The capacity to change over military drones, for example into self-ruling non-human guided weapons, “is just a software problem these days and one that can be relatively easily solved”, said Nolan.
She said she needed the Irish government to take a progressively vigorous line in supporting a ban on such weapons.
“I am not saying that missile-guided systems or anti-missile defence systems should be banned. They are after all under full human control and someone is ultimately accountable. These autonomous weapons however are an ethical as well as a technological step change in warfare. Very few people are talking about this but if we are not careful one or more of these weapons, these killer robots, could accidentally start a flash war, destroy a nuclear power station and cause mass atrocities.”
A portion of the autonomous weapons being created by military powers far and wide include:
The US navy’s A 2 Anaconda gunboat, which is being created as a “completely autonomous watercraft equipped with artificial intelligence capabilities” nd can “loiter in an area for long periods of time without human intervention”.
Russia’s T-14 Armata tank, which is being worked on to make it totally unmanned and autonomous. It is being designed to react to approaching flame free of any tank crew inside.
The US Pentagon has hailed the Sea Hunter autonomous warship as a noteworthy development in robotic warfare. An unarmed 40 meter-long model has been propelled that can cruise the ocean’s surface with no crew for a few months one after another.