Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Military Is Using Artificial Intelligence, But It’s Not What You Think
It’s almost 2017, which means Judgment Day will soon be upon us. It’s only a matter of time before Skynet becomes self-aware and begins its nuclear barrage on mankind. Our only hope for salvation is that Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese will save us.
Okay, so that is the plot of the most recent Terminator movie, which we all know is garbage and also completely fictional. But despite the fact that science-fiction movies like “Terminator,” “I, Robot,” and “The Matrix” have been trying to convince us that technology will rise up against the human race for decades, it’s just not going to happen, according to the military.
Dr. Micah Clark, a program officer in ONR’s warfighter performance department, told Task & Purpose in a recent interview, “The sudden emergence of a sentient artificial intelligence … is a near-irrational fear.”
As for the possibility of the rise of the Terminator, Clark added, “I don’t believe the military has an official position on the popular culture debate about the existential threats of AI.”
The military is experimenting with artificial intelligence applications, but it is nowhere close to designing robots with near-human levels of cognition.
“What I find much more concerning are simply mistakes that occur either due to errors in design and implementation,” Clark added.
The military’s real goal over the next several years is to create more opportunities to integrate artificial intelligence into human-robot teaming operations.
“[We] are very much focused on how unmanned systems will work together with the soldier to conduct common missions,” Dr. Jonathan A. Bornstein, chief of the autonomous systems division for the Army Research Lab, told Task & Purpose.
For example, Clark described a recent project called the MacGyver Bot, which behaves like the 1980s television character, who escaped dangerous situations by using on-hand objects and materials.
“In a simulation environment, we locked the robot in a room with some random pieces of equipment, and it’s goal was to get out through a locked door,” Clark said. “It came up with some quite creative solutions.”
However, it’s not just about building more sophisticated platforms.
What the Pentagon is hoping to avoid is having, as Clark called them, systems that are physically capable but intellectually stupid.
He added, “The presumption is … robots and machines can be teammates. And the question is, how can we make them better teammates?”
Though the goal is for these teaming robots to be intelligent enough to solve problems, they will derive their instruction from soldiers, and they won’t be sentient.
As far as ethical concerns about the dehumanization of warfare, Bornstein said, “I want [a robot] to be able to act independently, but within bounds. I want to have trust in what that system is going to do.”
According to both Clark and Bornstein, the plan is to create a framework for platforms that are intuitive, independent, and can communicate effectively with soldiers. They hope that troops will one day be able to view these robots as subordinates in the chain of command.
“If we want to work with machines in the future, we need to be able to trust them. And trust is a very nebulous term. It means that there is transparency, that we as soldiers understand what the robot is likely to do,” Bornstein said.
But, he added, that means that the robot must also be able to predict or assume what soldiers will do in a given circumstance.
While the military has begun using artificial intelligence in unmanned aerial vehicles and ground vehicles, truly independent robotic teammates are still a ways off. But some trials are proving promising.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer took the reins at the Pentagon on Monday, becoming the third acting defense secretary since January.
Spencer is expected to temporarily lead the Pentagon while the Senate considers Army Secretary Mark Esper's nomination to succeed James Mattis as defense secretary. The Senate officially received Esper's nomination on Monday.
U.S. Special Operations Command may be on the verge of making the dream of flying infantry soldiers a reality, but the French may very well beat them to it.
On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron shared an unusual video showing a man on a flying platform — widely characterized as a "hoverboard" — maneuvering through the skies above the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris armed with what appears to be a dummy firearm.
The video was accompanied with a simple message of "Fier de notre armée, moderne et innovante," which translates to "proud of our army, modern and innovative," suggesting that the French Armed Forces may be eyeing the unusual vehicle for potential military applications.
A lawmaker wants to know if the Pentagon ever exposed the American public to ticks infected with bioweapons
If you've ever wondered if the Pentagon has ever exposed the American public to ticks infected with biological weapons, you're not alone.
Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) authored an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would require the Defense Department Inspector General's Office to find out if the U.S. military experimented with using ticks and other insects as biological weapons between 1950 and 1975.
If such experiments took place, the amendment would require the inspector general's office to tell lawmakers if any of the ticks or other bugs "were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design."
The Taliban drove his family out of Afghanistan when he was a child. Now he wants to go back as a Marine
There's no one path to military service. For some, it's a lifelong goal, for others, it's a choice made in an instant.
For 27-year-old Marine Pvt. Atiqullah Assadi, who graduated from Marine Corps bootcamp on July 12, the decision to enlist was the culmination of a journey that began when he and his family were forced to flee their home in Afghanistan.
The Air Force has administratively separated the Nellis Air Force Base sergeant who was investigated for making racist comments about her subordinates in a video that went viral last year, Task & Purpose has learned.