Autonomous combat machines – the questions

The rapid increase in the number of autonomous combat systems in the air, at sea and on the ground creates a problem.

This problem is huge when humans are involved – but it is even larger in scale when fully autonomous combat systems are involved.

Different experts use different definitions, but in essence the problem is very simple to define – should all these autonomous combat systems talk to each other?

Should they be given the autonomy to initiate armed attacks on an enemy?

These are not only technical questions, but also touch that very delicate issue‫ ‬of ethics.

With an array of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) with a wide range of capabilities, with advanced types of unmanned ground systems and such systems that are used at sea, the operational questions have started to be asked in different levels in Israel.

While some say that a combined unmanned operational scenario is around the corner, others say that it will have to wait until some uncertainties are resolved.

With micro, mini, medium-sized and huge UAS operational, with at least two types of unmanned boats and with one very advanced autonomous ground system along some of the Israeli borders, the question is very real.

In the next few months forums in Israel will deal with this question.

Some will do it in public. Others in sound-proofed rooms.

I don’t expect these discussions to result in clear-cut answers, but the process has begun.


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