Autonomous weapons: Tightrope balance

When researchers in artificial intelligence released an open letter in July calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control,” they specified that a ban might prohibit weapons such as “armed quadcopters” capable of identifying and killing people “meeting certain pre-defined criteria.” But the ban would not include “cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions.” So it’s worth noting that the proposed ban would not prohibit a number of autonomous weapons that have already been deployed—because these weapons are classified as defensive.They include the US Navy’s Phalanx—a “rapid-fire, computer-controlled, radar-guided gun system” that has been in use since 1980, and that the US Army has adopted in a land-based form more recently. Germany’s fully automated NBS Mantis defense system can likewise…

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