SAN JOSE, Calif. – Robotic soldiers will someday make decisions about whom to kill autonomously, about the same time the local pizza parlor sends that large pepperoni pie to your house in an unmanned octa-copter. Those were two of the pithier observations from the latest newsletter on the state of the embedded board industry from Ray Alderman, executive director of the VITA trade group.
I've known and enjoyed Ray's right-of-center observations on all things electronic for many years. The latest newsletter was an especially rich and sometimes tangy treat, focusing on unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs).
Like many of Ray's musings, this issue was full of his wry wit. I have to admit I got a little digestion trying to swallow some of his more hawkish concepts on robo-war, such as the following:
According to Geneva Convention requirements, a human must be in the loop of unmanned weapons platforms. Totally autonomous killing of enemy combatants is not yet accepted by those who make the rules of war, and the progression toward total autonomy of weapons keeps them up nights thinking about the technological possibilities. But eventually, unmanned weapons will be fully autonomous and make kill decisions based on their sensor inputs and their algorithms…Totally autonomous weapons are simply a sensor-algorithm problem.
Later, Ray says "The Geneva Convention tribe…might be unconscious of what can be done at sea with autonomous weapons systems."
He notes the Upward Falling Payload platform in development, a package of weapons and electronics that sits on the bottom of the ocean until it is signaled to rise and attack a passing enemy ship or sub. (See artist's concept below). I can see the headline now: "Navy Blames Tech Bug for Sinking Cruise Ship."