14 December 2017

LETHAL AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS

LETHAL AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS

                                                                                    --  Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM(Retd)

Introduction

Lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) are a type of military robot designed to select and attack military targets (people, installations) without intervention by a human operator. LAW are also called lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS), lethal autonomous robots (LAR), robotic weapons, or killer robots. LAWs may operate in the air, on land, on water, under water, or in space. The autonomy of current systems as of 2016 is restricted in the sense that a human gives the final command to attack - though there are exceptions with certain "defensive" systems.

They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.

In May 2017, the first Meeting of Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems was held at the United Nations in Geneva. The participants recognized the potential of AWS to alter radically the nature of war, as well as a variety of ethical dilemmas such weapons systems raise. Worldwide concern has been growing about the idea of developing weapons systems that take human beings “out of the loop,” though the precise nature of the ethical challenges to developing such systems, and even possible ethical benefits, have not yet been clearly identified.

Issues

The idea of fully autonomous weapons systems raises a host of intersecting philosophical, psychological and legal issues. For example, it sharply raises the question of whether moral decision making by human beings involves an intuitive, non-algorithmic capacity that is not likely to be captured by even the most sophisticated of computers? Is this intuitive moral perceptiveness on the part of human beings ethically desirable? Does the automaticity of a series of actions make individual actions in the series easier to justify, as arguably is the case with the execution of threats in a mutually assured destruction scenario? Or does the legitimate exercise of deadly force should always require a “meaningful human control?” If the latter is correct, what should be the nature and extent of a human oversight over an AWS? 

“Killer Robots,” by their very nature, violate the ethics and laws of war. Robots cannot discriminate between combatants and civilians, because we cannot program a computer with the specification of what a civilian is. there is no way for a robot to make the proportional decisions required by International Humanitarian Law. it requires a specifically human form of judgment to decide whether a certain number of civilian casualties and damage to property is proportional to the military advantages gained.

Such debates have a philosophical dimension: robots cannot die, and so cannot understand the existential gravity of the decision to kill. We cannot hold robots accountable for their actions. Who then do we hold to account? The human commander? If the robot malfunctions or makes a terrible decision, who is to be blamed? The programmer? The manufacturer? The policymakers?

On the other side of this debate are those who argue that robots will make war less destructive, less risky and more discriminate. Human perception and judgment are inherently limited and biased, and war far too complex for any human mind to grasp. Some of the worst atrocities in war are due to human weakness. Emotions like fear, anger, and hatred or mere exhaustion can easily cloud a soldier’s judgment on the battlefield. From this point of view, the objection that robots will never be able to think and act like humans is anthropocentric and misses the point.

The question for advocates of lethal autonomous weapons is not whether the technology can mimic human psychology, but whether we can design, program, and deploy robots to perform ethically as well, or better, than humans do under similar circumstances.

The focus on lethal machine autonomy obscures how autonomous technology concentrates immense firepower in the hands of a few human beings. The crucial issue

here is not that of lethal machine autonomy, but of the capacity for humans to exert meaningful autonomy in the lethal human-machine interactions that will define future wars.

Lethal autonomous weapons will greatly expand the potential scope of violence, at the very moment when the complexity and speed of war has moved beyond the human ability to follow. This growing gap between the immense human capacity for violence and a limited capacity for judgment is perhaps the most dangerous implication of such technology.

Mapping the Development of Autonomy in Weapon Systems

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute recently has published the Report, Mapping the Development of Autonomy in Weapon Systems. It presents the key findings and recommendations from a one-year mapping study on the development of autonomy in weapon systems.

What are the technological foundations of autonomy?

· Autonomy has many definitions and interpretations, but is generally understood to be the ability of a machine to perform an intended task without human intervention using interaction of its sensors and computer programming with the environment.

· Autonomy relies on a diverse range of technology but primarily software. The feasibility of autonomy depends on the ability of software developers to formulate an intended task in terms of a mathematical problem and a solution; and the possibility of mapping or modelling the operating environment in advance.

· Autonomy can be created or improved by machine learning. The use of machine learning in weapon systems is still experimental, as it continues to pose fundamental problems regarding predictability.

What is the state of autonomy in weapon systems?

· Autonomy is already used to support various capabilities in weapon systems, including mobility, targeting, intelligence, interoperability and health management.

· Automated target recognition (ATR) systems, the technology that enables weapon systems to acquire targets autonomously, has existed since the 1970s. ATR systems still have limited perceptual and decision-making intelligence. Their performance rapidly deteriorates as operating environments become more cluttered and weather conditions deteriorate.

· Existing weapon systems that can acquire and engage targets autonomously are mostly defensive systems. These are operated under human supervision and are intended to fire autonomously only in situations where the time of engagement is deemed too short for humans to be able to respond.

· Loitering weapons are the only ‘offensive’ type of weapon system that is known to be capable of acquiring and engaging targets autonomously. The loitering time and geographical areas of deployment, as well as the category of targets they can attack, are determined in advance by humans.

What are the drivers of, and obstacles to, the development of autonomy in weapon systems?

· Strategic. The United States recently cited autonomy as a cornerstone of its strategic capability calculations and military modernization plans. This seems to have triggered reactions from other major military powers, notably Russia and China.

· Operational. Military planners believe that autonomy enables weapon systems to achieve greater speed, accuracy, persistence, reach and coordination on the battlefield.

· Economic. Autonomy is believed to provide opportunities for reducing the operating costs of weapon systems, specifically through a more efficient use of manpower.

The main obstacles are:

· Technological. Autonomous systems need to be more adaptive to operate safely and reliably in complex, dynamic and adversarial environments; new validation and verification procedures must be developed for systems that are adaptive or capable of learning.

· Institutional resistance. Military personnel often lack trust in the safety and reliability of autonomous systems; some military professionals see the development of certain autonomous capabilities as a direct threat to their professional ethos or incompatible with the operational paradigms they are used to.

· Legal. International law includes a number of obligations that restrict the use of autonomous targeting capabilities. It also requires military command to maintain, in most circumstances, some form of human control or oversight over the weapon system’s behaviour.

· Normative. There are increasing normative pressures from civil society against the use of autonomy for targeting decisions, which makes the development of autonomous weapon systems a potentially politically sensitive issue for militaries and governments.

· Economic. There are limits to what can be afforded by national armed forces, and the defence acquisition systems in most arms-producing countries remain ill-suited to the development of autonomy.

Where are the relevant innovations taking place?

· At the basic science and technology level, advances in machine autonomy derive primarily from research efforts in three disciplines: artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and control theory.

· The United States is the country that has demonstrated the most visible, articulated and perhaps successful military research and development (R&D) efforts on autonomy. China and the majority of the nine other largest arms-producing countries have identified AI and robotics as important R&D areas. Several of these countries are tentatively following in the US’s footsteps and looking to conduct R&D projects focused on autonomy.

· The civilian industry leads innovation in autonomous technologies. The most influential players are major information technology companies such as Alphabet (Google), Amazon and Baidu, and large automotive manufacturers (e.g. Toyota) that have moved into the self-driving car business.

· Traditional arms producers are certainly involved in the development of autonomous technologies but the amount of resources that these companies can allocate to R&D is far less than that mobilized by large commercial entities in the civilian sector. However, the role of defence companies remains crucial, because commercial autonomous technologies can rarely be adopted by the military without modifications and companies in the civilian sector often have little interest in pursuing military contracts.



The changing character of war 

Automated weapons are not merely new tools of war; they also change the very conditions of war itself. Innovations in robotics and artificial intelligence open up new possibilities, which will to some extent dictate the goals and strategies of future military operations. The dispersion of military power, made possible by autonomous technology, is already transforming military thinking. War is becoming less like a traditional conflict between clearly defined centers of power, and more like a global network of diffuse battlefields and highly mobile and dispersed firepower, further eroding the conventional distinction between “home front” and “battlefront.” The new swarm technology will contribute to this development, with small, fully autonomous drones dropping out of a “mothership” and returning hours later. Such technology promises to enhance military intelligence capacities, but once in existence there is nothing to stop the military from arming the drones. Imagine a swarm of drones, equipped with biometric data and orders to find and kill specific individuals, groups of individuals, or everyone in a designated area. Swarm technology, promoted by the industry as relatively inexpensive, could also fall into the hands of non-state actors.

Recent Developments

In August, more than 100 of the world’s leading robotics and AI pioneers called on the UN to ban the development and use of killer robots. The open letter, signed by Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, and Mustafa Suleyman, the founder of Alphabet’s Deep Mind AI unit, warned that an urgent ban was needed to prevent a “third revolution in warfare”, after gunpowder and nuclear arms. So far, 19 countries have called for a ban, including Argentina, Egypt and Pakistan.

Recently academics, non-governmental organisations and representatives of over 80 governments gathered at Palais des Nations for a decisive meeting on the future of LAWS. Organised under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), the meeting was chaired by Amandeep Gill, permanent representative of India to the Conference on Disarmament. For countries that are hard at work nurturing the integration of technology into their domestic economies, the weaponisation of artificial intelligence represents yet another chasm that will require significant resources and immense R&D to overcome. Countries that are relatively ahead in the game are concerned with retaining their strategic advantage while not inadvertently kick-starting another global arms race. A loose coalition of technologists, academics and non-governmental organisations, gathered under the ominous sounding ‘Campaign to Stop Killer Robots‘ has instead cited the inadequacy of protections under international humanitarian law and the trigger-happy tendencies of technologically advanced nations to call for a pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons.

Other countries, primarily ones that have developed and deployed weapons with semi-autonomous capabilities, have refused to endorse a ban. The US, that recently launched the ‘Sea Hunter‘, an autonomous submarine capable of operating at sea for months on its own, clarified that it will continue to promote innovation while keeping safety at the forefront. Similarly, Germany which has been fielding the automated NBS Mantis gun for forward base protection, called a ban premature. Russia echoed this position, warning against alarmist approaches that were “cerebral and detached from reality”.

Many AI experts gathered at the meeting seemed to share the notion that the threat associated with uncontrollable LAWS is far more severe than the possible benefits of more accurate targeting that may reduce loss of civilian casualties. One expert called LAWS the next weapons of mass destruction, owing to the ability of a single human operator to launch a disproportionately large number of lethal weapons.

A video, depicting autonomous explosives-carrying microdrones, wreaking havoc was screened at a side event organised by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. The movie portrays a brutal future. A military firm unveils a tiny drone that hunts and kills with ruthless efficiency. But when the technology falls into the wrong hands, no one is safe. Politicians are cut down in broad daylight. The machines descend on a lecture hall and spot activists, who are swiftly dispatched with an explosive to the head.

The short, disturbing film is the latest attempt by campaigners and concerned scientists to highlight the dangers of developing autonomous weapons that can find, track and fire on targets without human supervision. They warn that a preemptive ban on the technology is urgently needed to prevent terrible new weapons of mass destruction.

The video, produced by Stuart Russell of the Future of Life Institute, has been criticised by others in the scientific community for sensationalism – that screening the video at a gathering whose mandate is to separate fact from apocalyptic fiction, is unhelpful.

Amidst the two ends of the spectrum, the CCW has managed to move the debate forward on issues relating to the use of autonomous weapons. The fact that a minimum amount of human control be retained and that the use of these systems be governed by IHL.

India for its part, advised for balancing the lethality of these weapons with military necessity – adopting a wait-and-watch approach to how the conversation evolves.

The question of human control which has been discussed at length both at the GGE and in conversations leading up to it, has concluded that at the bare minimum, human must retain operational control over these weapons – for instance, the ability to cancel an attack on realising that civilian lives may be endangered. However, the particulars remain elusive, due to the lack of uniformity and specificity of language used. While many countries agree on the need for ‘meaningful human control,’ few have offered clarifications on what ‘meaningful control entails.’ In an attempt to de-mystify these understandings, the US has offered, ‘appropriate level of human judgement over the use of force’ as a more accurate method of framing the issue.

Nonetheless, many issues remain unresolved even at the conclusion of the GGE. Technical questions around the operational risks associated with LAWS remains unanswered. Will technologically sophisticated weapons be vulnerable to cyber-attacks that can hijack control? How will deployment of LAWS change the strategic balance between nations? Are weapons review processes under Article 36 of Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, adequate to ensure that LAWS are compliant with the international humanitarian law? These and many other questions were highlighted by the Chair’s report, and remain to be resolved by the next iteration of the GGE in 2018.

As the chair, Gill put it, the distance between the attacker and the target has been increasing since the beginning of time. Have we finally arrived at a point where that distance is unacceptable?

It-and-watch approach to how the conversation evolves.



In all things digital, India is 10 years behind China


Indian IT giants are outstanding companies with great management teams, but they have been held hostage by their past success.

They seem to be unwilling to invest enough for the future, concerned as they are about short-term margins and stock prices.

The problem may be more with these companies' investor base, says Akash Prakash.

The Chinese internet sector has been an amazing success story.

From virtually nothing, China is now at the cutting edge, with the largest number of internet users globally (at 700 million more than the US, EU, and Japan combined) and the most pervasive adoption of digital and e-commerce business models.

Indus Water Treaty: Review is not an Option

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

Of late, there are increasing demands from experts and political scientists from Pakistan to revise the almost six decades old Indus Water treaty that had survived despite wars, near wars, acts of terrorism and other conflicts between the two countries.

A detailed paper on the subject was written in this site in paper number 3676 of 19 Feb, 2010 followed by another in paper no. 6174 of 26 September 2016. In these papers it was pointed out that Pakistan being totally dependent on glacial waters, the availability of water from the western rivers allotted to Pakistan are reaching critical proportions. It was also pointed out Pakistan’s own mismanagement of its scarce water resources is responsible for non-availability of water.

Why Disclaiming Pakistan Occupied Kashmir Isn’t Prudent – Analysis

By Priyanka Singh*


Former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah recently raised a furore by stating: “I tell them in plain terms– not only the people of India, but also to the world – that the part (of Jammu and Kashmir) which is with Pakistan (PoK), belongs to Pakistan and this side to India. This won’t change.”1 This statement on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in general, and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) in particular, was made even as Dineshwar Sharma, the newly appointed interlocutor on J&K mandated to engage with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, made his maiden visit to the Valley. Within days, Farooq Abdullah supplemented his statement by noting: “How long shall we keep saying that (PoK) is our part? It (PoK) is not their father’s share.”2 He further cautioned that “they (Pakistan) are not weak and are not wearing bangles. They too have atom bomb”, which, in his view, must prevent India from thinking of retaking PoK.3

Maldives downgraded to ‘fragile state’ by IMF


The Maldives has been downgraded to a “fragile state” by the IMF because of the tense political situation, the way business is regulated and how the country’s finances and budgets have been run in recent years. The new classification is the latest blow to the Maldivian economy from the institution, which has repeatedly spoken of the high levels of debt being driven by the current administration’s ambitious infrastructure scale-up.

Sri Lanka signs share ownership agreement with China on Hambantota Port commencing operations

Dec 09, Colombo: Sri Lanka on Saturday signed share ownership agreement with China on Hambantota Port formally handing over the operation of port to the state-owned China Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPort). The agreement was signed today between Sri Lanka Ports Authority and China Merchant Port Holdings, Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) and Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS) under the patronage of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the parliamentary complex.

Myanmar emerging as key component in China’s Belt Road Initiative

Andre Wheeler

A recent public speaking trip through Asia discussing the ongoing developments within the China Belt Road Initiative (BRI) exposed a number interesting themes, one of which is the increasing influence Myanmar is having on China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI). Most discussion within the maritime, oil & gas and rail sectors focused on the growing improvements in rail infrastructure and the potential that this will be a significant disruptor to trade, logistics and supply chain within the region. 

Diverging Trajectories in Bangladesh: Islamic State vs al-Qaeda

By: Nathaniel Barr

Al-Qaeda and Islamic State have adopted divergent strategies in their competition for dominance in Bangladesh. Al-Qaeda has sought to build popular support by exploiting the grievances of the country’s political Islamists, and by employing targeted violence against secularists, atheists and those who are perceived to be advancing Western values, an approach that analysts have noted mirrors the Maoist insurgency model. [1] The group has also pursued a deliberate and cautious growth strategy, refraining from behavior that would expose its clandestine activities. IS, on the other hand, has adopted a more aggressive and confrontational approach, carrying out high-profile attacks against religious minorities, Westerners and security forces in an effort to sow sectarian tensions and destabilize the Bangladeshi state.

Why China Plans to Invade Taiwan

Ian Easton

China's rapid military buildup is focused on acquiring the capabilities needed to annex, or conquer, Taiwan.

A Chinese diplomat in Washington recently threatened that China would invade Taiwan if the U.S. Navy sent a ship to visit the democratic island, something that Congress has called upon the Pentagon to do in 2018. Is this just empty rhetoric? Or does it reflect Beijing's actual intentions? It's actually a bit of both.

China: 2017 Was 'Crossroads of History'

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By Charlotte Gao

Chinese Foreign Minister says the world is at a crucial stage of shifting balance of power.

As 2017 is coming to an end, the Chinese foreign ministry just issued its verdict on the year, hailing Chinese diplomacy throughout 2017 as a great success.

On November 9, the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) — the think tank of the Chinese foreign ministry — held the Symposium on International Developments and China’s Diplomacy in 2017. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the conference and gave a 10,000-plus-word opening speech, reviewing in detail China’s “great achievements” in diplomacy over the year. 

Believing that 2017 is of “high significance” to China and the world, Wang claimed that the world is “at a crucial stage of evolving international landscape and shifting balance of power.”

Rich countries are reducing their emissions—by exporting them to China


Akshat Rathi David Yanofsky

Historical greenhouse-gas emissions data make clear that much of the burden of climate change lies with rich countries. The US, the UK, Germany, and others built their economies burning fossil fuels without thinking about the consequences. The unwillingness of wealthy states to take historical responsibility for climate change is one reason it took more than 20 years of negotiations before 195 countries could agree to sign the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

IMF Warns China of 3 Financial Stability Risks

By Charlotte Gao

On December 6, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its assessment on China’s financial stability and identified three major “tensions” emerging in Chinese financial system. 

The first risk identified by the IMF is high corporate debt and household indebtedness. IMF argues that “the credit needed to generate additional GDP growth has led to a substantial credit expansion.” The problem, the IMF added, is mainly caused by the Chinese authorities, particularly at the local government level, as they have added strong “pressures to keep non-viable firms open — rather than allowing them to fail.”

The IS Economy: Will Losing Territory Cripple Islamic State?



By: Ludovico Carlino
Two recent offensives against Islamic State (IS) in Syria have forced the group further south, squeezing its so-called caliphate into a small pocket of territory between the Syrian and the Iraqi border. More crucially, these two successful operations — one undertaken by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the other by the Syrian army — have almost put an end to the group’s ability to generate the revenue necessary to sustain its operations.

Struggle Over Scripture: Charting the Rift Between Islamist Extremism and Mainstream Islam

Milo Comerford Rachel Bryson

Concerns about Islamist extremism are growing both in the West and in Muslim-majority countries as it continues to kill tens of thousands each year around the globe. Yet there is a deficiency in evidence-based research into how the supremacist ideology that drives this violence warps mainstream religious principles. There must be greater consensus among policymakers and thought leaders that the battle against the extremism of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda is not against Islam, but rather against a perversion of the religion. This report aims to clarify the nature of that perversion, to enable a religiously grounded response to Islamist extremism, in both its violent and its nonviolent forms.

Global Extremism This Week


Bitesize analysis of the major extremism stories from around the world in the last seven days.

Defections between ISIS and the Taliban in Afghanistan have the potential to affect the complex dynamics of the two deadly militant groups. The murder of Yemen’s former president led to fresh waves of violence, further obscuring peaceful solutions to the country’s war. Meanwhile, the US defence secretary visited Islamabad amid increased pressure on Pakistan to counter terrorism.

“Fifty Shades of Jihad”: Al Qaeda Releases New Battle Manual at Book Launch

by Nigel Jesuan

In an attempt to regain some of the attention which has dissipated to ISIS in recent years, Al Qaeda is set to publish a provocatively titled new fighting manual and will be hosting their first book launch next week.

Entitled “Fifty Shades of Jihad”, the manual is marketed as a “guide for both the expert and the uninitiated in the world of radical Islamism” and is said to “encompass all the intricate and often sensual facets of Quranic-inspired terrorism”. A key selling point of the book, and anticipated to be of particular interest to keen younger readers, is a racy epilogue which graphically describes the various sexual encounters a martyr will experience when he meets his 72 virgins.

The Evolving Stalemate Between Russia and the West


Tensions between Russia and the West will remain high in 2018, with the United States and European Union likely to maintain — if not expand — their economic sanctions. 

Negotiations between Moscow and the West over contested hot spots like Ukraine and Syria will take place throughout the year, though talks ultimately will not lead to any breakthrough agreements. 

The importance of Russia's relationship with the West to Moscow will gradually ebb as the Kremlin increasingly turns its foreign policy focus to other regions of the world. 

Former CIA Director: Russia’s Election Hacking Was An ‘Intelligence Failure’

Susan B. Glasser

The politics of spying in America has never been more intense. President Trump has taken to publicly bashing his intelligence agencies and continues, a full year later, to question their conclusion that Russia intervened in the 2016 U.S. election on his behalf. For their part, an array of career spooks have come out of the shadows where they spent their careers to challenge the commander-in-chief in once unthinkably public terms. Michael Morell is one of the career types who’s broken with decades of practice to confront Trump. A veteran of nearly three decades in the CIA, Morell rose from within the ranks to become the agency’s longtime deputy director, twice serving as its acting leader before retiring during President Barack Obama’s second term. In the summer of 2016, he broke with tradition to endorse Hillary Clinton over Trump, and he has continued to sound the alarm ever since.

What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages

By James Manyika, Susan Lund, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin, Jonathan Woetzel, Parul Batra, Ryan Ko, and Saurabh Sanghvi

In an era marked by rapid advances in automation and artificial intelligence, new research assesses the jobs lost and jobs gained under different scenarios through 2030.

The technology-driven world in which we live is a world filled with promise but also challenges. Cars that drive themselves, machines that read X-rays, and algorithms that respond to customer-service inquiries are all manifestations of powerful new forms of automation. Yet even as these technologies increase productivity and improve our lives, their use will substitute for some work activities humans currently perform—a development that has sparked much public concern.

The View From Olympus: The OO Loop Problem

William S. Lind

One of the more curious aspects of the current U.S. military is its institutionalization of failure. We have lost four Fourth Generation conflicts: Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq (which is still very far from being a real state), and Afghanistan, where we are fighting but not winning. In response, we keep doing more of the same, more perfecting of our ability to put firepower on targets. If war could be reduced to that, we would be the greatest, military on earth. But it can’t.