The Marines Are Developing Secret Killer Robots

Peyton Gouzien | @pgouzien

The Marine Corps is developing a secret project titled “Sea Mob”, which involves autonomous vessels capable of lethal assaults with human input. This project is part of the beginning of a new age in warfare: one that will no longer require human combatants.

The idea of killer robots is thought to be science fiction, but they already exist. Experts in the field of machine learning and military technology say “it is already possible”. In China, tech companies developments in AI technology are already being used in military projects.

Additionally, every branch of the U.S. military is conducting research into the implementation of autonomous weapons. The Navy has begun experimenting with a ship that could hunt submarines without a crew called “Sea Hunter”. In one test the ship made the journey from Hawaii to California on its own. As well, the Army has begun work on an autonomous Joint Air to Ground missile system (JAGM). The system picks out vehicle targets without human input. In addition, the Air Force is developing “Sky Borg”, a program for autonomous F-16 fighter jets. Currently, the system requires human input for use. Only minor modifications would be needed for them to be fully autonomous.

Autonomous Weapons met with backlash from Scientists and Human Rights Activists

While militaries and tech companies have begun embracing this new age of warfare, many still have not. Most people assume the technology is still the stuff of science fiction, but not to those in the Human Rights community. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is an organization of scientists and human rights activists seeking a ban on autonomous weapons. The organization warns the technology is exploitable and unethical.

Dr. Toby Walsh, an expert in AI, works with the organization in seeking the end of these weapons. Walsh warns “few” of his colleagues are thinking about the potential dangers of the technology. He finds it concerning people feel this still only a dream of science fiction. Walsh points to the use of drones used in Afghanistan, as only needing “a small technical step to render them autonomous.”

Is a Ban happening?

Dr. Walsh has created a petition seeking the banning of autonomous weapons. The United Nations has considered it and as of now, 28 members have supported it. Though, the petition has seen pushback from member nations including the U.S., UK, Russia, Israel, and South Korea. So far no nation has formally banned the weapons and the debate on the ban in the UN continues.


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