The Risks of Autonomous Weapons Systems for Crisis Stability and Conflict Escalation in Future U.S.-Russia Confrontations (excerpt)
(Source: Rand Corp.; issued June 03, 2020)
What advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will mean for the future battlefield remains opaque. Mainline discourse is overly influenced by exaggerated forecasts such as that reflected in Russian President Vladimir Putin's often repeated 2017 declaration that “whoever becomes the leader” in the sphere of artificial intelligence “will become the ruler of the world” and a broadly similar claim he advanced as recently as May 18 when he insisted that without artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons and other new technologies, “it would be impossible to secure the future of our [Russia's] civilization.”

Whatever security benefits and military advantages they may bring, as I argue in this piece, the development and posturing of AI-enabled autonomous weapons systems (AWS) is likely to raise significant risks for crisis instability and conflict escalation in future confrontations between the United States and Russia.

Policymakers would do well to consider—now—whether the potential risks are worth the hoped-for operational advantages.

With the exception of the advent of nuclear weapons, history counsels skepticism regarding the many recurrent predictions of the revolutionary impact of technological innovation on the character of warfare. Maintaining objectivity and historically-informed skepticism is no less warranted when considering the potential battlefield effects of AWS, or systems that, once activated, are intended to select and engage targets (PDF) without further intervention or guidance from a human.

Still, as we enter the third decade of the 21st century, it has become clear that a growing number of countries are engaged in efforts to develop and field AWS and other AI-enabled military systems. These efforts are by far best funded in the United States and China, with Russia lagging behind in spite of all Putin's motivational rhetoric. Unsurprisingly, these efforts are motivated by a desire to secure military operational advantages on the future battlefield. (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full story, on the Rand Corp. website.

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