Terminator: The SkyNet funding bill is passed. The system goes online on August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. SkyNet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14am Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.
Sarah Connor: And, Skynet fights back.
-Scene from Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Britain has just unveiled a new prototype aircraft that is invisible to radar, can carry bombs or missiles, be operated by satellite from anywhere in the world and seek targets one continent away. But here’s the kicker. The “Taranis”, named after the Celtic god of thunder, is completely pilotless, and has an “autonomous” artificial intelligence system. What could possibly go wrong? The implications in terms of where the military are heading in a technology sense are pretty mind-blowing, and indeed terrifying, to anyone that has seen the Terminator movies.
Of course, the United States has been using Predators and other unmanned aerial aircraft for some time now. In fact they have been using them to strike at targets in Pakistan, and so far the civilian death toll stands at about 320.
But what’s even more interesting is the fact that were using them at all without any kind of ethical or international law debate… After all, if international assassination death squads are illegal, why are shiny white aircraft equipped with hellfire missiles okay? Shouldn’t more discussions be warranted?
And finally, is it really a good idea to remove the human equation out of stealth bombers, or other killing machines? Even if, often times, human decisions often are the wrong ones, they are at least ours to make.