Secrecy News

Autonomous Military Technology at a “Tipping Point”

Autonomous military technologies that are capable of independently selecting a course of action to achieve a goal are maturing rapidly, the Defense Science Board said in a newly published study.

“Autonomy, fueled by advances in artificial intelligence, has attained a ‘tipping point’ in value,” the DSB study said.

“Autonomy will deliver substantial operational value–in multiple dimensions–across an increasingly broad spectrum of DoD missions, but the DoD must move more rapidly to realize this value. Allies and adversaries alike also have access to increasingly rapid technological advances occurring globally,” the study said.

The Board recommended that the Department of Defense undertake a series of pilot projects “intended to demonstrate the range of benefits of autonomy for the warfighter.”

The Board did not consider catastrophic failures modes associated with autonomous technologies in any depth.

But the study did say that “an autonomous system must be designed so that humans (and/or machines) can straightforwardly determine whether, once it has been deployed, it is operating reliably and within its envelope of competence — and, if not, that appropriate action can be taken.”

See Summer Study on Autonomy, Defense Science Board, June 2016.