A mural in Sana’a, Yemen protesting against U.S. drone strikes. Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images
A new era where weapons of war are becoming more intelligent and more enabled by data — such as unmanned ships, submarines or drones — raises complex challenges for national and global security.
Threat level: If technology is allowed "to start making big decisions on its own ... we might be doomed by technological advances," David Petraeus, former CIA director and retired four-star general, tells "Axios on HBO."
Driving the news: Experts are grappling with the ethics of developing autonomous weapons, which suggest the possibility of a computer deciding on its own to take human life.
- UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged AI experts to ban autonomous weapons, calling them “morally repugnant.”
- Drones — low profile and easily preprogrammed with GPS routes — are just the beginning of warfare with AI. Recently, a drone blast killed several people in Yemen, including the Yemeni government's head of military intelligence.
Fully autonomous weapons don't exist today, but Petraeus warns even a world of semi-autonomous weapons could create a frightening future for humankind.
- "All of this is advancing so rapidly that it’s literally difficult to keep up with it intellectually conceptually."
Our thought bubble, per Axios AI reporter Kaveh Waddell: The big challenge now is to slow the world’s slide toward an automated weapons race fueled by mutual distrust and a lack of information.
- As international efforts to ban autonomous weapons stall — in part thanks to the U.S. — look for the Pentagon to update its policies on automation late this year.