Ready for Weapons With Free Will?
Early in the Afghanistan War, Army Rangers hunting Taliban fighters along the Pakistan border saw a goatherd with a radio, probably reporting their position to the Taliban. Under the rules of war, soldiers can shoot someone informing enemy forces of their location, but these men saw that the goatherd was just a girl.
If she had come into the sights of the kind of autonomous robot or drone now under development, rather than of trained snipers, it might not have made the distinction between target and child, and killed her, according to Paul Scharre, who was leading the Rangers that day.
Scharre, author of “Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War,” recounted this episode in a speech this year at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, laying out the stakes as the artificial intelligence revolution spreads further onto the battlefield.
“How would you design a robot to know the difference between what is legal and what is right?” he asked. “And how would you even begin to write down those rules ahead of time? What if you didn’t have a human there, to interpret these, to bring that whole set of human values to those decisions?”
For now, these are hypothetical questions. Two senior Pentagon officials, who spoke to The Times on background because much of their work on artificial intelligence is classified, say the United States is “not even close” to fielding a completely autonomous weapon.
But three years ago, Azerbaijani forces used what appeared to be an Israeli-made kamikaze drone called a Harop to blow up a bus carrying Armenian soldiers. The drone can automatically fly to a site, find a target, dive down and detonate, according to the manufacturer. For now, it is designed to have human controllers who can stop it.
Not long after that in California, the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office tested 103 unarmed Perdix drones which, on their own, were able to swarm around a target. “They are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature,” the office’s director at the time, William Roper, said in a Defense Department statement.
As the ability of systems to act autonomously increases, those who study the dangers of such weapons, including the U.N. Group of Governmental Experts, fear that military planners may be tempted to eliminate human controls altogether.
文／Carol Giacomo 譯／李京倫
call the shots原意是（長官）下令（士兵）開槍，引申為下令、作主，和be in charge、be in control意思一樣。
autonomous是不受外力控制的，用在政治上指自治的，不受其他政府法律管轄。用在機械上指機械具有人工智慧，能自行根據情況判斷該如何做，如autonomous car自駕車，autonomous weapon自主武器。semi-autonomous則是部分自治的，尤其是關於內部事務，譬如紐約時報說，香港就是semi-autonomous region。
semi-automatic rifle半自動步槍又稱自動裝填步槍，每發子彈擊發後，槍械利用子彈擊發時的氣體與後座力，自動完成退彈殼與下一發子彈的進彈動作，射手每扣下一次扳機，就會擊發一發子彈。automatic rifle只要射手持續扣著扳機，自動步槍將如機槍般連續射擊，直到子彈打光。