ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) is on the march, for good and ill. The AI that makes possible self-driving cars and diagnoses diseases more accurately than doctors will save lives. The AI that does jobs better than workers may be a more mixed blessing. But AI that might give machines—“killer robots”—the responsibility for deciding how wars are fought, and who gets killed, is a science-fiction nightmare. Paul Scharre, a former army ranger, explores this dystopian prospect in “Army of None”.
Mr Scharre interviews the engineers building autonomous weapons and the strategists preparing for their arrival. He sees first-hand what to expect from these technologies, such as swarms of small, low-cost drones locked in aerial combat, manoeuvring with superhuman co-ordination. The speed of these developments, he finds, both excites and disturbs the military establishment. The generals know they are entering an era in which algorithms will determine success on the battlefield, and humans may be unable to keep up with the pace of combat.
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