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Vice Chairman Of Joint Chiefs: Technology To Build “Terminator Without A Conscious” Is Here

September 06, 2016

Air Force General Paul Selva, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the U.S. Defense Department, recently spoke out about the Pentagon’s newest fear: advanced artificial intelligence. During a Center for Strategic and International Studies presentation last month, General Selva expressed concern over developing technologies that would allow armies to build a “Terminator without a conscious.”

According the General Selva, huge advancements in drone, artificial intelligence, and autonomous weapons technology have allowed for the potential for robots to be created that are strong enough to overpower and destroy human beings much like the plot of the 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic “The Terminator.”

“The notion of a completely robotic system that can make a decision about whether or not to inflict harm on an adversary is here.” Selva said.  “As we develop systems that incorporate things like artificial intelligence and autonomy, we have to be very careful that we don’t design them in a way that we create a situation where those systems actually absolve humans of that decision.”

“That ethical boundary is one that we’ve drawn a fairly fine line on,” he continued, “but it is one that we must continue to understand because it is entirely possible that as we work our way through this process of bringing enabling technologies into the department that we could get dangerously close to that line.”

General Selva went on to say that the Pentagon must reach out to AI tech firms, “military-oriented” or not, to develop systems of command and leadership models.  USNI stated that in the past 20 years funds for basic science and research have shifted from being 90 percent government funded to 90 percent private sector funded through private laboratories or universities.

General Selva was asked about the ethical problems that come with quickly advancing technology. “I’m not bashful about what we do,” he said. “My job as a military leader is to witness unspeakable violence on an enemy.  In the end, when you send me, and any soldier, sailor, airman, or marine from the United States, or an ally partner or friend out to defend the interests of our nations, our job is to defeat the enemy.”

“Inside of that context,” he continued, “the methods by which we execute our mission are governed by law and by convention.  And one of the places that we spend a great deal of time is determining whether or not the tools we are developing absolve humans of the decision to inflict violence on the enemy.”