This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the authors and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE. Last month, over 1,000 robotics and artificial intelligence researchers signed an open letter calling for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons, putting new energy into an already spirited debate about the role of autonomy in weapons of the future. These researchers join an ongoing conversation among lawyers, ethicists, academics, activists, and defense professionals on potential future weapons that would select, engage, and destroy targets without a human in the loop. As AI experts, the authors of the letter can help militaries better understand the risks associated with increasingly intelligent and autonomous systems, and we welcome their contribution to the discussion. By calling for a ban on autonomous weapons, the letter raises a host of complex issues, and it will take continued engagement by scientists to help address them. In … [Read more...] about Ban or No Ban, Hard Questions Remain on Autonomous Weapons
North korea missile launch fail
1. Bomb in a Box On 20 March 2007, North Korean dictator Kim Jongâ''Il blackmails the world’s wealthiest nations, threatening to detonate a 2-kiloton atomic bomb hidden inside a shipping container somewhere in the port city of Hong Kong unless he receives US $50 billion in gold bullion within 48 hours. Kim says in a videotaped message addressed to the U.N. Security Council and broadcast by CNN that any attempt to disarm the device would result in ”a nuclear holocaust for Hong Kong and the crippling of the world trading system.” The threat sends the city of nearly 7 million into a panic, with many deaths reported as people attempt to flee by any means available. Experts calculate that a 2â''kiloton bomb detonated on the ground in Hong Kong would kill more people and destroy more property than the 22â''kiloton airburst that devastated Nagasaki at the end of World War II. That bomb killed an estimated 70 000 civilians and leveled the city … [Read more...] about Nine Cautionary Tales
In August 2004, Todd Proebsting, a researcher in Microsoft’s platform and services division, was approached by a manager in the company’s testing organization who had spent months helping to create a piece of software to be used by other Microsoft programmers. Although it was an internal product, the software still had a rigid development schedule and an official launch date: November 2004, just a few months away. The manager had heard a talk by Proebsting about something called a prediction market, a sort of stock market for ideas, in which Microsoft employees would in effect place bets on predictions, instead of on racehorses or football teams. A lot was riding on the timely completion of the testing software. “You said that a market could be used to predict schedules,” the manager said. ”I want to know when my team will finish writing the software.” Proebsting created a market with six possible bets: that the product would ship before … [Read more...] about Bet on It!
The United States’ thousands of nuclear warheads have the explosive equivalent of over 1 gigaton of TNT. It’s an amount of energy that could literally move mountains, reroute rivers, alter climate, and result in the deaths of hundreds of millions or even billions of people, through fire, radiation, and starvation. Like everything else on Earth, those warheads are getting older. But unlike anything else on Earth, that mere aging may have profound consequences for the national security of the United States. Most of the nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal date from the late 1970s and the 1980s, with anticipated lifetimes of 20 to 25 years; the most recent ones, the submarine-launched W88s, were added in 1988. Most of the warheads, in other words, are now past or nearing their estimated expiration dates. If nothing is done to maintain these hugely complex systems, they will in time fail, leaving the United States with no nuclear arsenal at all. In fact, U.S. President … [Read more...] about What About The Nukes?
Since the beginning of warfare, humans have sought defenses against offensive weapons. Not surprisingly, then, the deployment of nuclear-armed missiles by the United States and the Soviet Union early in the Cold War prompted each to begin building missile defenses to protect themselves against these extremely destructive weapons. What is perhaps surprising is that both countries soon recognized that this undertaking would be destabilizing and pointless and agreed in the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty not to defend their countries against each other’s ballistic missiles. The two superpowers both based their nuclear policies on the notion of deterrence-that maintaining the ability to launch a nuclear counterattack that would inflict massive destruction on the other side was necessary to ensure that the other country would not attack first. Missile defense could weaken or even negate the retaliatory capability of the other side, since a retaliatory attack would be small … [Read more...] about Missile Defense: The Sequel
It is conceivable, as one of his colleagues has suggested, that Theodore Postol could be more effective “if he did not eventually accuse just about everybody of fraud or malfeasance or stupidity.” Over the past two years, for instance, the MIT professor of science, technology and national security policy has publicly accused the defense technology corporation TRW of perpetrating a hoax on the U.S. government. He has charged the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (formerly known as the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization) with committing an “elaborate scientific and technical blunder,” compounded by fraud and misconduct. He has charged the authors of a report investigating those alleged frauds-who include two staff scientists at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory-with committing scientific fraud themselves to cover up the frauds they were allegedly investigating. He has charged the Pentagon’s Defense Security Service, in a letter to John Podesta, who … [Read more...] about Postol vs. the Pentagon
Scenario one: If North Korea fired a nuclear-armed missile that devastated an American city, how would the U.S. government respond? The state-sponsored attack would fit within the Cold War paradigm; therefore, the certain American response would be an overwhelming retaliation aimed at destroying Pyongyang, Kim Jong Il’s nuclear and missile programs, and North Korea’s million-man army. Such a response would result in enormous collateral damage, killing millions of North Koreans. Despite reservations about the morality of such a response, those who established the Cold War nuclear doctrine recognized – and accepted – the unintended deaths of millions of innocents. Whoever occupied the White House during such a nuclear attack would understand this also. Scenario Two: If North Korea were discovered to have sold a nuclear bomb to al-Qaeda, which smuggled the weapon into the United States and used it to destroy a city, how would the U.S. government respond? As … [Read more...] about Nuclear Accountability
A test above the Pacific Ocean early this month was characterized by a Pentagon official as a “huge step” in proving technologies to intercept long-range ballistic missiles, such as ones North Korea is developing. But some expert observers say it was unremarkable because it largely reiterated earlier achievements and did not–unlike some earlier tests–attempt to overcome potential counter-measures that an enemy could deploy. What’s more, critics have expressed dismay about the classification of the test data, which makes it impossible to conduct an independent evaluation. In the September 1 test, an interceptor launched from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base struck a mock warhead fired from Kodiak, Alaska. Similar tests in December 2004 and February 2005 had failed, prompting the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to suspend tests. But in this test, the interceptor hit the target, the agency said. The recent test also included a successful … [Read more...] about Missile Defense: Hit or Miss?
As I write this, the U.S. has deployed a battle group to Syria in preparation for a missile strike against the government there, and Russia has deployed what appears to be a counter force. What most seem not to be factoring in is that Syria has already fired its warning shot with attacks on Twitter and The New York Times, at least.I say "at least," because reporting of attacks isn't comprehensive, and other attempts may have failed, so Syria's first strike may have been far larger than initially reported. (Update: Many other attempts have now been reported.)The U.S. has a tendency to overreact, and it is clear there's insufficient preparation for the infrastructure collapse that could occur when Syria responds to a missile attack -- and Russia exists as a wild card that could cause the conflict to spread rapidly out of control.It's been common knowledge for some time that the U.S. infrastructure is vulnerable to outside attack and that governments like Syria and China have been … [Read more...] about OPINION World War 3: The Cyber-Risk of a Missile Attack on Syria
North Korea is dealing with an international fallout following the country’s weekend launch of a satellite-carrying rocket. The country reportedly launched a rocket and successfully deployed the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite in orbit, reports CNN. According to U.S. Department of Defense officials who were monitoring the launch, the satellite reached its orbit, but is tumbling and nonfunctional.The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) launched its Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite on Sunday despite objections internationally that the deployment violates earlier agreements prohibiting missile testing. Officials from concerned countries believe the rocket launches could be a front being used by North Korea to test and develop intercontinental ballistic missile technology. North Korean officials claim the launch was for “peaceful purposes” with officials asserting the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite is an “earth observation … [Read more...] about North Korean satellite nonfunctional and ‘tumbling in orbit’ following weekend launch