By Whitney Webb
In the next 9 years, the US Army will have more combat robots than humans, according to John Bassett, a former UK intelligence officer. Basset, who worked for 20 years at the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), told attendees at a counter-terrorism meeting in London that the US is attempting to “stay ahead of the curve” by employing thousands of robot soldiers over the next few years.
Most of the robot prototypes have been developed or funded by the controversial research arm of the Pentagon Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, commonly known as DARPA. DARPA has also researched the creation of so-called “super soldiers,” humans that are cybernetically enhanced physically and mentally. These “improvements” include brain implants, which DARPA hopes could allow the “super soldiers” to communicate “by thought alone.” However, some defense scientists have warned against such research, saying it could lead to “remote guidance or control of a human being.” General Robert Cone, head of the US Army’s training and doctrine command, has voiced his support for the “robotic revolution” in the US armed forces, as it would lower costs and lead to a higher rate of success in US military operations.
During the conference, Bassett pointed to the numerous advances in autonomous warfare that have taken place this year as evidence that the automation of the military is quickly approaching. Just this past March, DARPA launched an autonomous drone ship designed for various missions, such as hunting down enemy submarines. Boeing, a major US defense contractor, launched an unmanned submarine this April with the capacity for exploratory missions as well as warfare. Other companies that are unrelated to the US military-industrial complex are also investing in the autonomous ships. Rolls-Royce announced in June their plans to create “ghost ships,” which would carry cargo and would function specifically in trade. DARPA is also funding other non-military robotics projects, such as the development of tiny, flying robots to replace the endangered bee population.
Bassett also argued that artificial intelligence and robotics, in general, would soon begin to mesh together, due to the recent advancements in both fields. This possibility has been very exciting for transhumanists. Transhumanism, the ultimate aim of many DARPA projects, seeks to “augment” natural beings, particularly humans, with machines, though many transhumanists fail to define limits for cybernetic enhancement. Zoltan Istvan, prominent transhumanist and a US presidential candidate, has argued that employing robot help in the military would be beneficial. He believes robot soldiers will play a huge part in US military operations over the next ten years and argues that, as a result, “there won’t be any death of US soldiers in war zones.” Istvan does say there will “still probably be [human] special forces, but even they are going to have to be replaced at some point.”
With many people around the world unemployed or in danger of losing their job to automation, it seems that national governments and the elite are, on the one hand, publicly saying that they will great more jobs for humans, while privately funding and supporting replacing humans with machines. The dangers of doing so cannot be overstated as the merging of AI and robotics opens a new world of possibilities that cannot be easily undone.
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