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AI-Drones: The Governments Try To Reduce Casualties Just For Good PR

31 October 2018 18:52, UTC
Anna Zhygalina

​According to the Stockholm international peace research institute (SIPRI), the global volume of arms supplies in 2012-2016 increased by 8.4% comparing to the previous 4 years. In the exporters ranking of global arms supplies, the United States still occupies a leading place, followed by Russia and China. Among the importers, the leading country is India, which buys 13% of all weapons in the world, while its regional competitor China is gradually replacing imported weapons with its own developments.

The fastest growing market according to the experts’ opinion is the middle East - its share in arms imports increased by 86%, amounting to 29% of global sales, for five years. In the arms race Saudi Arabia became the leader of the region, which increased its share of imports by 212%, and Qatar - by 245%.

Global arms market: trends, explicit and implicit

However, the arms market due to the development of new technologies is rapidly changing and becoming more unpredictable. Previously, it was enough to estimate the total purchase volume of fighters, assuming which countries have the greatest military potential. For example, according to market capacity estimates from the world Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade (CAWAT), the following countries were allocated in the actual import of multi-purpose fighters for 2018: Saudi Arabia - $3.9 billion, India - $1.5 billion and Japan - $1.2 billion. In the contracts for the next 2 years, Saudi Arabia is still the leader in the promising purchases of fighters - $7.9 billion, Qatar will become the leader in the purchase - $12.9 billion, India - $8.7 billion, having planned most of the purchases for 2020, Israel will also make large purchases for $4.1 billion and Australia has purchased fighters for $3.2 billion, and Japan is preparing 2 purchases for $2.3 billion.

At the same time, now the world's arms giants don’t make massive purchases of military equipment. Thus, the US has not purchased fighters since last year, becoming the world leader in their exports according to contracts for 2017-2020 in the amount of $63.4 billion, followed by France - $18.4 billion and Russia - $17.4 billion.

What are actually the developed countries focused on? Interestingly, that the United States don’t appear at all at the list of importers of intelligence equipment, as well as unmanned weapons in coming years. If you follow the current purchases chain, you can find a curious trend: in the past years, the US actively bought BPA aircraft, but in the plans until 2020, they gave way to Australia with a share of 45.88% of imports, the UK - 16.48% and India - 7.75%.

The same trend is observed in the procurement of Russia: in past years, the country ranked second in the import of tactical UAVs, and now gives way to Australia again, as well as China and Germany. And the main exporter for the period was the US with a total share of exports of $265 million.

The clear interest of the import leaders of military weapons has shifted to the group of drones. Thus, the leaders of imports of UAV class MALE and HALE in the coming years were Saudi Arabia (18.23%), South Korea (14.53%) and Japan (11.85%). But the most interesting thing is that the world leaders of exports over the years for the supply of BPA aircraft were the US companies with a share of 82.1%, and also some “unknown supplier” - 8.34%. Approximately the same statistics is occured in the sale of tactical, mini- and micro-UAVs. And the leaders of UAVs class MALE and HALE exports were the United States (50.64%), China (21.67%) and Israel (13.19%). So it is quite an easy to guess what was that “unknown” supplier of drones.

This leads us to the conclusion, that the rate of countries’ weaponry have shifted to drones, and the development of technologies will soon change the arms market in the root. And it will be full of all kinds of UAVs with some new powerful options.

Drones: technological vulnerabilities

The total arms market, according to official contracts for 2017-2020, will be $404.37 billion with the purchase of UAVS among all countries - $6.5 billion. Despite the seemingly insignificant share in the arms market, the development of artificial intelligence for unmanned weapons became the basis of the current race among the countries.

Independent business analyst and strategy consultant Enrico VERGA, expressed his opinion in an interview for Bitnewtoday.com that the most popular weapons based on AI in the world are drones, especially combat, and the leaders of such developments according to him are the United States, Israel, China, Russia and South Korea, which “invest billions in research and production”.

When asked whether these technologies can harm the operators themselves by being hacked, the expert said: “I cannot predict this. But so far any technology developed had some fault. If we consider that even NSA was hacked, everything Is possible. Stated this it doesn't mean that can happen. But it is unwise to state that any technology is 100% safe”. At the same time, Enrico VERGA noted that this is only his personal opinion, which does not represent the position of any company, public organization or government with which he works now or cooperated in the past.

According to the other source of Bitnewstoday.com, expert in AI, who wished to remain anonymous, there is “the rise of the "drone killer" products now, which interrupt the drone controls and try to take over the other drones”. And according to him, China will dominate in the production of such devices.

As for the possibilities of cyber attacks on the drones themselves, he believes it is unlikely: “AI drones will be very hard to hack, once on a mission. They will have in built counter measures to stop it. The simplest measure would be that the AI UAV will only accept commands if it's actually plugged in. If it has no input while flying, it can't be hacked”.

As you can see, experts disagree about the reliability of AI weapons, and many of them consider the use of such drones unjustified due to high technological risks. That further exacerbates the main problem of the legality of such weaponry introduction.

Legal regulation of Lethal autonomous AI weapons

The world is faced with the fact that drones and deadly weapons based on AI - not a distant future, but a close reality. Human rights activists from around the world raised the alarm: according to them, France, Israel, China, Russia, South Korea, the United States and the United Kingdom are already actively engaged in their development, putting the whole world at risk of “widespread use of autonomous weapons”.

At the moment, such weapons have no legal status in any country. Our expert from the UK, the founder of the blockchain company based on AI, Amardeep SINGH is sure: "Each of major military hardware, superpower develops AI-powered drones. And absolutely, it’s mostly top secret”. The Swiss expert, the founder of the AI hub Andy FITZE in the interview for Bitnewstoday.com shared his opinion that the strongest countries in this segment of armament, because of the secrecy of developments, do not contact with the international organization ICT4peace, which together with the UN is working on the creation of a peaceful international cyberspace.

Meanwhile, the issue of creating a legal framework is particularly acute, due to the fact that experts consider AI-weapons as a serious international threat on a par with nuclear, biological or chemical ones. According to Andy FITZE, the problem is compounded by the fact that the danger of the spread of such weapons does not require large financial costs: “You can buy a drone, bring a good DL algorithm with a chip that’s not really expensive. Then put a nice optical cam on it, some sensors, and you can do really, really terrible things. So it is not far away”.

However, attempts to create legal norms for the development or use of Autonomous weapons have not yet been successful. Even in the UN, representatives of 75 states met four days in a row (from 27 to 31 August 2018) and were unable to agree on any of the issues related to lethal autonomous weapons.

Two leaders of the world weapons - the US and Russia - took a tough position: they are against any legal restrictions, which is actually not surprising, since most of the development and sales of autonomous AI weapons account for their exports share. Representatives of the United States claimed that the new weapon is “magical machines operating much more efficiently than human soldiers”. According to Amardeep SINGH, this position is caused by a rather banal reason: ”Basically, the states want to reduce their casualty list, because it is bad for PR, bad for media”.

The majority of UN members voted for the need to leave the control over the entire decision-making system of lethal autonomous weapons for humans: from the choice of the target to the start of the attack. However, even in this issue the world community representatives have not reached a consensus: for example, Japanese experts believe that it is enough to control only the beginning of the attack, and in all other aspects they consider to make it possible to give the AI-weapon full autonomy. According to the Head of the Legal Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross Knut DÖRMANN, there is a need for total human control over the development and activation of such weapons: “If the machines themselves initiate an attack, it will jeopardize international humanitarian law”.

When the ends justify the means

Proponents of the development of self-managed AI weapons consider it as one of the ways to avoid a significant number of victims as a result of human error. For example, there are cases when from 2004 to 2013 in Pakistan, the US military conducted about 370 airstrikes with the help of combat UAVs. According to various estimates, between 2,500 and 3,500 people have died under these attacks. And the amount of deaths includes not only members of terrorist groups, but also at least 14 civilians among the “militants”.

According to the developer of autonomous technologies for ground-based and aerial vehicles from India Ritukar VIJAY, the autonomous weapons with AI support will provide a powerful tool for rapid and effective protection of the population, while conducting the anti-terrorist operations in particular: "Human-directed weapons systems - there are errors which are seen in the past caused severe damage to innocent civilians. AI algorithms can make better decisions about actions in situations, where humans might make serious errors. When handling hundreds of drones - AI will be much more safer and accurate”. At the same time, the expert notes that such an effective but dangerous tool requires great responsibility.

But no matter how governments justify the development of autonomous AI weapons for rescue and anti-terrorist operations, the public is much more concerned about the direct question: how do the military actually plan to use this technology in a warfare? And we would like to conclude with the thought of one of our experts Amardeep SINGH: ”So if you look at military, if you’re creating AI drones - that is to kill people".