academia | advice | alcohol | American Indians | architecture | art | artificial intelligence | Barnard | best | biography | bitcoin | blogging | broken umbrellas | candide | censorship | children's books | Columbia | comics | consciousness | cooking | crime | criticism | dance | data analysis | design | dishonesty | economics | education | energy | epistemology | error correction | essays | family | fashion | finance | food | foreign policy | futurism | games | gender | Georgia | health | history | inspiration | intellectual property | Israel | journalism | Judaism | labor | language | law | leadership | letters | literature | management | marketing | memoir | movies | music | mystery | mythology | New Mexico | New York | parenting | philosophy | photography | podcast | poetry | politics | prediction | product | productivity | programming | psychology | public transportation | publishing | puzzles | race | reading | recommendation | religion | reputation | review | RSI | Russia | sci-fi | science | sex | short stories | social justice | social media | sports | startups | statistics | teaching | technology | Texas | theater | translation | travel | trivia | tv | typography | unreliable narrators | video | video games | violence | war | weather | wordplay | writing

Monday, March 04, 2019

I pledge allegiance to the killbot

Item 1: The Washington Post ran a recent story titled "The Kalashnikov assault rifle changed the world. Now there’s a Kalashnikov kamikaze drone." Item 2: The US Dept of Defense has a propaganda feed where they show off their technologies with pride, including a recent post bragging about the firepower of a Hercules warcraft.

I think the dawning age of killer robots is one of the most important stories in the world.

I anticipate that the next step change will come when autonomous killer robots are equipped with recharging capabilities, and designed for indefinite deployment. Then it will start making much more sense to give them rudimentary AI to decide who to kill, when and where.

In addition, this method of violence will give us even less personal connection to those we kill. Think of the difference between pulling the trigger on several people who ends up being the wrong people (which has a PTSD rate near 100%) and deciding to conduct a drone strike on them; much less personal, much less of a sense of immediate responsibility; less PTSD, though there certainly is some.

Now think of the difference between that and writing code that someone else on your team reviews, and yet someone else deploys to a drone fleet, and then there are dozens more code deployments after you. If, over the course of years, indirect reports suggest that these drones have been killing many of the "right" people but also many of the "wrong" people. In the meantime, you've shifted to another coding job, for a finance company. Are you going to have PTSD now, retroactively? Not likely.

With less human resistance and pain, comes greater incentive to err on the side of killing.

We already don't care how many innocent people are murdered by our manually controlled drones. We literally don't even try to keep count, beyond keeping a fake count that is an obvious lie. We didn't even care when the US government murdered a teenaged US citizen. Will anyone really care when Democracy Now! reports that our extended deployment killbots are murdering thousands of innocent children?

And then when the other side murders us, Sam Harris will take it as evidence that their values are incomprehensible and alien to us and can't be negotiated with.

The Terminator and Matrix dystopias, as pessimistic as their premises seem, are actually myopic about humanity. They envision a future where humanity is united in regret for creating such powerful and destructive killing machines. What they get wrong is that humanity is going to be working hard to make the killing machines smarter, long after it's clear that they are destroying human life as we know it.

The Pentagon will be proud of them. Dianne Feinstein will be proud of them. And odds are, our kids will be proud of them.

Labels: , , ,