According to reporting by The New York Times, the United States, China, Israel, and a handful of other nations are weighing the prospects of allowing AI-controlled drones to autonomously decide to kill human targets.

The New York Times reports:

But it is approaching reality as the United States, China and a handful of other nations make rapid progress in developing and deploying new technology that has the potential to reshape the nature of warfare by turning life and death decisions over to autonomous drones equipped with artificial intelligence programs.

That prospect is so worrying to many other governments that they are trying to focus attention on it with proposals at the United Nations to impose legally binding rules on the use of what militaries call lethal autonomous weapons.

“This is really one of the most significant inflection points for humanity,” Alexander Kmentt, Austria’s chief negotiator on the issue, said in an interview. “What’s the role of human beings in the use of force – it’s an absolutely fundamental security issues, a legal issue and an ethical issue.”

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But while the U.N. is providing a platform for governments to express their concerns, the process seems unlikely to yield substantive new legally binding restrictions. The United States, Russia, Australia, Israel and others have all argued that no new international law is needed for now, while China wants to define any legal limit so narrowly that it would have little practical effect, arms control advocates say.

The result has been to tie the debate up in a procedural knot with little chance of progress on a legally binding mandate anytime soon.

The advancement of this artificial intelligence technology would bring humanity a giant leap closer to “The Terminator” becoming reality.

“The Pentagon is working toward deploying swarms of thousands of AI-enabled drones, according to a notice published earlier this year,” Business Insider reports.

Per Business Insider:

In a speech in August, US Deputy Secretary of Defense, Kathleen Hicks, said technology like AI-controlled drone swarms would enable the US to offset China’s People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) numerical advantage in weapons and people.

“We’ll counter the PLA’s mass with mass of our own, but ours will be harder to plan for, harder to hit, harder to beat,” she said, reported Reuters.

Frank Kendall, the Air Force secretary, told The Times that AI drones will need to have the capability to make lethal decisions while under human supervision.

“Individual decisions versus not doing individual decisions is the difference between winning and losing — and you’re not going to lose,” he said.

“I don’t think people we would be up against would do that, and it would give them a huge advantage if we put that limitation on ourselves.”

The New Scientist reported in October that AI-controlled drones have already been deployed on the battlefield by Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion, though it’s unclear if any have taken action resulting in human casualties.

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