Nukes and Alien Invasions Aren't the Greatest Threats to Humanity: Futurist Michio Kaku Says Killer Drones Will Wipe Us Out First

Monday, 26 March 2018 - 1:14PM
Monday, 26 March 2018 - 1:14PM
Nukes and Alien Invasions Aren't the Greatest Threats to Humanity: Futurist Michio Kaku Says Killer Drones Will Wipe Us Out First
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Image credit: YouTube
Physicist and futurist Michio Kaku is well known for his predictions of the future of robotics.

With degrees from Harvard and Berkeley under his belt, as well as 25 years professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York, it's safe to say that Kaku knows his stuff.

Now, Kaku is cautioning, as many other very smart people including Stephen Hawking have done before, about the dangers of a future robot uprising.

Unlike many who've spoken out on the subject of killer robots, Kaku isn't concerned about the distant future of machines overthrowing their masters to rule over a mountain of human skulls. Instead of Skynet, he's currently warning against individual rogue drones and the possibility that right now (or at least very soon), a malfunctioning robot could go on a killing spree.

Said Kaku:

Opening quote
"We have drones that a human supervises and says, 'kill that target.' In the future, the drone will recognize the human form and have permission to kill the target. It may go crazy one day-a mistake, a short circuit could take place-and it just keeps shooting that human form independent of any instructions. Automatic killing machines are the one thing we have to worry about today, not tomorrow. But other than that, we really don't have to worry about the robots taking over."
Closing quote

Kaku is absolutely right to be worried about this. The kind of autonomous killer drone technology he's warning against certainly already exists.

There are drones that are capable of firing weapons at human targets, including a drone with the precision and sturdiness needed to fire a high caliber sniper rifle from a far distance.

What's more, the US military has a Linux-powered submarine that can identify and take action against any perceived threat. At present, humans are required to authorize the sub in combat, but this condition could easily be relaxed in future.

It's probably not entirely fair to put the focus of attention on drone AI itself. There's nothing to indicate at present that any military drone would do as Kaku describes, going rogue and killing anyone with a face just for kicks and giggles.

If anything, the bigger concern is that these machines could be ordered to undertake a massacre at the behest of humans.

We've seen hackers manage to break the code in children's toys, turning them into murder machines, so the idea of someone hacking a military drone isn't beyond the realms of possibility. In fact, the in future of technological warfare, this will likely be a method of combat that guerilla groups would prefer, as it would mean hijacking their enemies' robot soldiers, using these weapons against their creators.

There's a reason this idea pops up in video games as often as it does - hacking enemy drones is a smart tactic, and much of the future of war will be fought by those with the coding skills necessary to find chinks in their enemies' digital armor.

That said, there's an even more terrifying prospect surrounding the future of drone warfare.

As scary as it'd be for one drone to go rogue due to a programming glitch, or for one military to hack another's drones for the sake of some cheap kills, the terror of this kind of event pales in comparison to war drones acting as they're meant to.

Someone has to decide to let a killbot loose on an enemy, and these robots aren't going to be able to easily distinguish between hostile opponents and innocent civilians.

Drones don't feel emotional pain or give people the benefit of the doubt. Removing the human conscience from war will make it a lot easier for military leaders to lose sense of the humanity of their opponents, as they order drones to do all the dirty work without ever thinking of the costs.

Forget robot uprisings—the really scary idea here is that humans are going to happily use these tools on each other, all without batting an eyelid.