We’ve written about the threat posed by the future (inevitable?) marriage of autonomous drones and artificial intelligence. According to Tech Insider, we’re one step closer to oblivion:

Aptly named for the Celtic god of thunder, the British-made Taranis is one of the most advanced aircraft ever built, and certainly the most advanced built by British engineers.

It’s “virtually invisible to radar,” David Coates, a spokesperson for BAE Systems — the company that manufactured the drone — told Tech Insider in an email.

According to Popular Science, “it could technically fly autonomously,” though during flight tests it’s under the control of a human operator.

According to an infographic from BAE, the Taranis can also target threats and is able to fire on that target on its own after a remote pilot gives the go-ahead.

To do this, the Taranis would reach a preselected area using a programmed flight path. It would automatically identify and target the threat within that search area. It sends this data back to its home base, where the information is verified by the human operator, and the target is OK’d for attack.

An undetectable warplane that runs autonomously – er, I mean … “kills with permission from its human overlords.” Sounds like a great idea! Who would be against such a marvelous machine?

More than 16,000 artificial-intelligence researchers who have openly urged government leaders to take action against banning the creation of semiautonomous and autonomous weapons in an open letter to the UN. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, physicist Stephen Hawking, and Google director of research Peter Norvig have also signed on to the petition.

Oh, just 16,000 artificial intelligence researchers, that’s all. Phew.

The big problem that has everyone worried is that it’s often unclear where the human comes into the decision process of targeting and firing an intelligent weapon, Heather Roff, a professor of international ethics at the University of Denver, told Tech Insider.

That’s a fancy way of saying, the big problem everyone has is that these machines will get off the leash, fly around, and kill humans based on some pre-programmed “protocol”.


Ah Taranis, see you in my nightmares!

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