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The future of warfare is being shaped by computer algorithms that are assuming ever-greater control over battlefield technology. The war in Ukraine has become a testing ground for some of these weapons, and experts warn that we are on the brink of fully autonomous drones that decide for themselves whom to kill.
This week, we revisit a story from reporter Zachary Fryer-Biggs about U.S. efforts to harness gargantuan leaps in artificial intelligence to develop weapons systems for a new kind of warfare. The push to integrate AI into battlefield technology raises a big question: How far should we go in handing control of lethal weapons to machines?
In our first story, Fryer-Biggs and Reveal’s Michael Montgomery head to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Sophomore cadets are exploring the ethics of autonomous weapons through a lab simulation that uses miniature tanks programmed to destroy their targets.
Next, Fryer-Biggs and Montgomery talk to a top general leading the Pentagon’s AI initiative. They also explore the legendary hackers conference known as DEF CON and hear from technologists campaigning for a global ban on autonomous weapons.
We close with a conversation between host Al Letson and Fryer-Biggs about the implications of algorithmic warfare and how the U.S. and other leaders in machine learning are resistant to signing treaties that would put limits on machines capable of making battlefield decisions.
This episode originally aired in June 2021.
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