Pentagon wants $12 billion to 'kick the crap out of' iWorld geeks from foreign regimes

The Pentagon proposed a $12 to $15 billion budget to fund next-gen autonomous weapon technology and AI that exceeds the capabilities of Russian and Chinese killer robots.

Terminator T-800
Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson

What do you do if you are worried about killer robots? If you are the Pentagon and those killer robots belong to the Chinese and Russians, then you propose a $12 to $15 billion budget to fund your own AI army and next-gen weapon technology.

The Pentagon’s plan for new tech, according to Reuters, will include “wearable electronics, exoskeletons, greater use of drones and manned aircraft working together, and mother ships that would send out mini-drones to execute military missions.”

At a conference hosted by the Center for a New American Security, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work explained:

“We believe that the advantage we have is ... our people; that tech-savvy people who’ve grown up in the iWorld will kick the crap out of people who grew up in the iWorld under an authoritarian reign.”

Regarding the Pentagon’s fiscal 2017 budget request, Work said the military would use the funds “to invest in autonomous weapons and deep-learning machines that draw on advances in artificial intelligence, with a heavy focus on human-machine collaboration and teaming in combat.” He added that the billions are needed so the U.S. military can “dominate” in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Of course, the Pentagon would keep this work classified, but it would announce specific accomplishments so the propaganda will shake up potential adversaries. It seems a bit like showboating by the great and powerful Wizard of Oz without being able to see what he is actually doing behind the curtain. According to Reuters, Work said, “I want our competitors to wonder what's behind the black curtain.”

To truly pursue autonomous weapons, advanced AI systems, and killer robots...have people at the Pentagon never seen any of the Terminator movies? In the realm of non-fiction, has the Pentagon chosen to ignore warnings by Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and other brilliant minds about killer robots, creating Skynet and super-intelligent AI systems which could “spell the end of the human race?”

From a security perspective, Reuters reported “there was ‘a lot of skepticism’ within the Defense Department over whether the military would be able to perfect and protect such a network.” Yet Work is “convinced such weapons are ‘not only possible, but ... a requirement’.” Hopefully none of the proposed weapons would be built using foreign-made chips with built-in backdoor attack tools.

Pentagon’s 5 building blocks of human-machine collaboration

National Defense Magazine reported on the “five ‘building blocks’ of human-machine collaboration that the Pentagon hopes to exploit as the autonomy and artificial intelligence fields advance.”

The first building block of investment is “autonomous ‘deep learning systems’ that can analyze large amounts of data” and “deal with incoming threats.” Work gave the following example, “You cannot have a human operator operating at human speed fighting back a determined cyber attack,” Work said. “You’re going to have to have a learning machine that does that.”

“Human-machine collaboration to improve decision-making” is the next step. Work gave the example of the “cutting edge helmet for the F-35 joint strike fighter,” which displays images from outside the plane to give “360 degrees of information to pilots.”

Think “Iron Man suit” to get the gist of the third building block of “assisted human operations.” U.S. Special Operations Command is reportedly developing such exoskeletons.

Iron Man exoskeletons HarshLight

The fourth step, according to Work, is “human-machine combat teaming.” He gave an example of “having a commander direct a swarm of unmanned aerial vehicles against enemy forces.”

Lastly, the fifth area of investment is “network enabled semi-autonomous weapons,” which “could continue to operate in the face of cyber and electronic warfare attacks on communication systems and technologies such as GPS.”

The latter scenario is like something out of the June 2015 Law of War Manual's (pdf) “Cyber Operations” chapter. A plethora of cyber weapons are sanctioned, although cyber operations that would be considered “use of force” include those that would “(1) trigger a nuclear plant meltdown; (2) open a dam above a populated area, causing destruction; or (3) disable air traffic control services, resulting in airplane crashes.”

The Pentagon will officially release its $12 to $15 billion fiscal year 2017 budget during the first week of February. All of this would be in addition to the $460 million U.S. Cyber Command “lethal cyber weapons” project, a military contract for developing “computer code capable of killing adversaries” and logic bombs capable of self-destructing to take out an enemy’s critical infrastructure.

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