Dec 31, 2014 | By

Epilogue: Technology and the Art of War

In the eight weeks since I gave the presentation on The Human Race and The Technology Race at the Wayland Great Presenter Series, the issues of artificial intelligence and computers vs. humans have been prominently featured in a variety of public media. There does seem to be at least a little hype about a super intelligent computer takeover, but mostly the public is genuinely, and appropriately, interested. On the other hand, there seems to be less attention to the issues of our distractibility, the constancy of digital interruptions and the stresses of instantaneous, ever-present communications. These are the issues we are grappling with in real-time.

On a different front, The Week published a News Briefing on December 19 (page 13) that explored “The mechanized future of warfare”. Military applications for high technology have been actively moving from development to deployment, and the next generation of autonomous devices may get very close to a threshold with vast implications: When we give autonomous machines the license to kill humans without direct, conscious human control (human control is the case with drones today), we will have violated Asimov’s Laws of Robotics and taken a major step down a road fraught with ethical and existential consequences. This is a very real debate: “Some advocates… contend that lethal autonomous weapons would be faster and more efficient… than human-generated systems.”

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Perhaps this is time for people, including me, to follow Thoreau’s advice and withdraw support for something that they believe is unjust. This might be one way:

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