Weapons with minds of their own

The future of warfare is being shaped by computer algorithms that are assuming ever greater control over battlefield technology.  Will this give machines the power to decide who to kill?

The United States is in a race to harness gargantuan le…

The future of warfare is being shaped by computer algorithms that are assuming ever greater control over battlefield technology.  Will this give machines the power to decide who to kill?

The United States is in a race to harness gargantuan leaps in artificial intelligence to develop new weapons systems for a new kind of warfare. Pentagon leaders call it “algorithmic warfare.” But the push to integrate AI into battlefield technology raises a big question: How far should we go in handing control of lethal weapons to machines?

We team up with The Center for Public Integrity and national security reporter Zachary Fryer-Biggs to examine how AI is transforming warfare and our own moral code. 

In our first story, Fryer-Biggs and Reveal’s Michael Montgomery head to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Sophomore cadets are exploring the ethics of autonomous weapons through a lab simulation that uses miniature tanks programmed to destroy their targets.

Next, Fryer-Biggs and Montgomery talk to a top general leading the Pentagon’s AI initiative. They also explore the legendary hackers conference known as DEF CON and hear from technologists campaigning for a global ban on autonomous weapons.

Machines are getting smarter, faster, and better at figuring out who to kill in battle. But should we let them?


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