Technological innovation—at least in consumer culture—often pairs with entertainment platforms. Smartphones, tablets, and even watches have been creating a tech reliant culture. While creative mediums have expressed caution for technology, the present day has embraced constant evolution. The main reason for the adoption of technology has been the maintenance of human control. Once human control is taken away, questions of ethics arise. Robotics has slowly evolved into the battlefield with machines like drones and UAVs leading the way.
While intimidating, the inclusion of robots in warfare seems to be a natural evolution. With human oversight, advancements in robotics serve to bring a new dimension of defense. In We Should Not Ban ‘Killer Robots,’ and Here’s Why by Evan Ackerman and “War Machines: Recruiting Robots for Combat” by John Markoff, the authors discuss the evolution of robotics in warfare. Among the arguments, both talk of their implementation going forward. Ackerman’s support of autonomous is often viewed as a controversial opinion, and rightfully so.
Generally, the adoption of robotics and artificial intelligence becomes tainted when thinking of the negative stigma. Those opposed to the implementation of robots hypothesize, “some sort of arms race that will lead to the rapid advancement and propagation of things like autonomous “armed quadcopters,” eventually resulting in technology that’s accessible to anyone if they want to build a weaponized drone” (Cite). In other words, the adoption of autonomous technology would cause concern due to the ease of creation. While not being misguided, the argument depicts the national climate as a technological wild west.
With the internet age, the spread of information becomes an inevitability. When given accessible information, one becomes inclined to utilize the knowledge. Rather than pushing away technological evolution, results could instead be found in the adoption of emerging technology. Embracing changes in the technological landscape allow us to view warfare through a new lens. Decision making for example becomes a refined process. Similar to human soldiers, a training period allows for issues to be detected and corrected. However, humans crack under pressure.
Ackerman states, “Since robots aren’t alive and don’t have emotions and don’t get tired or stressed or distracted, it’s possible for them to just sit there, under fire, until all necessary criteria for engagement are met. Humans can’t do this” (cite). One of the best aspects of robots is often a cause for concern – their lack of emotions. Robots view a scenario in a cold and calculated manor. Human emotions prove to be a double edged sword. For example, while empathy could prove valuable, emotional attachment can cloud rational thought.
One could argue that one’s ability to engage a situation while in tune with their emotions can prove advantageous. Yet a robot’s inability to succumb to those emotions allows for logical decisions to be made at war deprived of emotional meddling. While trusting robots still worries civilians, the adoption of said technology does not necessarily mean the elimination of humans entirely. In Markoff’s New York Times article, he interviews John Arquilla, director of Information Operations Center at Naval Postgraduate School.
Arquilla asserts, “Some of us think that the right organizational structure for the future is one that skillfully blends humans and intelligent machines… We think that that’s the key to the mastery of 21st-century military affairs” (qtd. in ). Instead of robotics taking the place of humans, Markoff’s article suggests the utilization of robots with human supervision. By implementing robotics as such, the advanced weaponry becomes utilized in the way assault rifles are currently. Of course, the freedom of drones surpasses the capabilities of guns alone.
Markoff realizes the power of such weaponry while simultaneously addressing the benefits. The combination of human intellect and robotic decision making could provide a logical middle ground. Ackerman and Markoff’s articles provide a positive perspective on robots on the battlefield. Ackerman proves to be adamant on technological advancements. Markoff does not fully support the decision but instead provides an alternative—robotic and human cooperation. Where each other connects firmly is there view of the future.
Technology will continue to advance. The world is not prone to halt innovation due to fear. However, said fear could provide human and technological middle ground. Warfare becomes more reliant on technological advancements each passing day. Disregarding the changes taking place would put a country like the United States at a strategical disadvantage. Therefore, a blend of human and robot may be necessary to guide warfare going forward. Technology should be allowed to evolve with those who utilize its capabilities, regardless of dread.