This Stealth Warship Runs On Linux and Doesn't Need Humans to Defend Itself

Friday, 18 August 2017 - 10:07AM
Technology
Artificial Intelligence
Robotics
Friday, 18 August 2017 - 10:07AM
This Stealth Warship Runs On Linux and Doesn't Need Humans to Defend Itself
Image credit: US Navy
In the ongoing fight between Macs and PCs, it's hard to deny that Linux has the biggest actual firepower. Case in point: the USS Zumwalt, the most advanced surface ship in existence, which weighs in at over 10,000 tons and features 80 missile silos (its Tomahawk missiles can cover a distance of 1,550 miles), as well as a main gun that fires rocket-assisted, GPS-guided rounds (which can hit within 30 inches of a target roughly 72 miles away). What's really interesting, though, is its ability to detect, analyze, and respond to potential threats, all without the need for human intervention at all. This is where Linux comes in.

Equipped with a top-of-the-line server farm running on Linus Torvalds' adaptable operating system, the Zumwalt is essentially a huge, floating drone—left to its own devices, its impressive computer power allows it to act autonomously during missions in order to function with ease as everything, from lights to electrics and emergency responses, are all completely controlled by the warship's powerful computer brain.

To get a full grasp of the scope of this undertaking, and just how impressive this enormous Linux military drone ship is, check out The Bookmark's interactive infographic, which breaks down its features, or check out the video below:



This is an excellent indicator of where military hardware is going in the near future, and how unmanned missions are going to become increasingly popular as this technology continues to develop. There's a need for a lot of different drones in modern combat situations, and while tiny sniper quadcopters that are piloted manually may be the answer for some missions, others need a big, explosive warship that can take care of itself in a crisis.

There is a danger to adding AI to the mix with a deadly warship like this, though. The big challenge that programmers and engineers working on the Zumwalt will face is a consistent moral issue surrounding artificial intelligence in battle; namely, the question of whether it's appropriate to allow a machine to do the thinking when human lives are at stake.

At present, the Zumwalt is capable of operating mostly alone, but it's not unmanned—there's a human crew on board who are responsible for the big decisions, relying on the ship's Linux brain to take care of some of the tasks that can easily be entrusted to a computer. In the future, though, there's no doubt that the US military will look to find new ways to reduce the risk to human lives by shearing down the crew on ships like these and developing wholly autonomous AI-driven ships that can deal with combat scenarios by themselves.

While the natural reaction in situations like this might be to panic at the deadly, untrustworthy robots with missile capabilities, it's not fair to cast a wary eye on the machines. After all, there's a reason the military has chosen Linux—it's reliable, difficult to hack, and, above all, it has no noteworthy computer games.

So we won't be getting a War Games scenario anytime in the near future.
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