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Machines, computers and robots are getting smarter.

Artificial Intelligence – or AI – is often in the headlines, but both the term itself and what it means are contentious.

AI refers to a computer system that has the capability to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. This might mean a machine with visual perception, speech recognition or decision-making skills.

Commercial organisations have developed AI technology for use in new and exciting ways, from drones that deliver packages to driverless cars.

In fact, the more AI technology is used across the commercial sector, the more it becomes a normal and essential part of our everyday lives.

But while commercial investment in AI has led to rapid and extraordinary development, it has also been a double-edged sword.

Unable to match the same level of spending, governments and militaries have seen their brightest engineers move over to the commercial sphere.

This limits expertise and can hamper innovation, but can also lead to compromised and unsafe autonomous systems.

This is a particular concern for military robotic systems, a concern that will only increase as they become more common.

Military robots will become increasingly autonomous – that is, able to make decisions and take on missions with less and less human supervision.

Yet engineers have not been able to develop the technology needed for them to employ reason in high-stakes situations. Until they can demonstrate that judgment, their military use will be limited.

Because the evolution of this technology is being driven by the commercial rather than military sector, it makes AI’s future impact on war much harder to predict.

Machines, computers and robots are getting smarter, but only because the roboticists and engineers behind them are getting smarter.

 

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