“Living fighters will gradually begin to be replaced by their robotic ‘brothers’ who can act faster, more accurately and more selectively than people,” Vitaly Davydov, deputy director of Russia's Advanced Research Foundation, told RIA Novosti on April 21.
Russia is not alone in developing war robots, as the United States is also working on its own robotic military. Both countries are, in fact, developing swarms of ground robots.
The robots are expected to be faster and more accurate in target selection than people. But is that really the case?
More accuracy in target selection requires algorithms that have not yet been created, and transferring the decision to kill from a human to a machine is still very much under debate.
“At this point in military autonomy, a human can designate targets once they are identified,” told Forbes Samuel Bendett, an adviser at the Center for Naval Analyses. “but once the computing speed and the levels of battlefield complexity multiply exponentially, I wonder how true Davydov's statement will be.”
An ethical dilemma
This is because making robots that abide by the laws of war is as much a coding challenge as it is an ethical one. It would mean the military would have to put prioritizing positive target identification over the fastest response.
“At this point, the Ministry of Defence says that robots replacing humans saves human soldiers from danger,” said Bendett. “Built into that statement is the assumption that a sophisticated unmanned system would be able to eventually distinguish military targets from civilian ones, avoiding unnecessary casualties.”
Time will tell how these new robots will operate. Will they make battlefields a safer place for humans, or will they worsen current conditions?