Autonomous weapon systems, asymmetrical warfare, and myths

Civitas 23 (2018)
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Predictions about autonomous weapon systems (AWS) are typically thought to channel fears that drove all the myths about intelligence embodied in matter. One of these is the idea that the technology can get out of control and ultimately lead to horrific consequences, as is the case in Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein. Given this, predictions about AWS are sometimes dismissed as science-fiction fear-mongering. This paper considers several analogies between AWS and other weapon systems and ultimately offers an argument that nuclear weapons and their effect on the development of modern asymmetrical warfare are the best analogy to the introduction of AWS. The final section focuses on this analogy and offers speculations about the likely consequences of AWS being hacked. These speculations tacitly draw on myths and tropes about technology and AI from popular fiction, such as Frankenstein, to project a convincing model of the risks and benefits of AWS deployment.
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First archival date: 2019-03-25
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