With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the backdrop, the United Nations recently held a meeting to discuss the use of autonomous weapons systems, commonly referred to as killer robots. These are essentially weapons that are programmed to find a class of targets, then select and attack a specific person or object within that class, with little human control over the decisions that are made.
Russia took center stage in this discussion, in part because of its potential capabilities in this space, but also because its diplomats thwarted the effort to discuss these weapons, saying sanctions made it impossible to properly participate. For a discussion that to date had been far too slow, Russia’s spoiling slowed it down even further.
I have been tracking the development of autonomous weapons and attending the UN discussions on the issue for over seven years, and Russia’s aggression is becoming an unfortunate test case for how artificial intelligence (AI)–fueled warfare can and likely will proceed.