The Army developed A.I. to help robots understand context

They're getting smarter.

Robot with turret

A group of scientists have helped the U.S. Army develop artificial intelligence that will enable its robots understand context. The robot needs to understand environmental context, social context, and mission context so it can successfully work alongside human soldiers — and this A.I. system will make that possible.

Dr. Kristin Schaefer-Lay, an engineer with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, said in a statement that this was a significant challenge.

“The idea of integrating context to A.I. development is a difficult process,” Schaefer-Lay said. “Researchers tend to have very different ideas about what is meant by context and the best practices for integrating context into A.I. development.”

Schaefer-Lay explained that this development advances natural language communication, world model development, multi-modal communication and human-autonomy teaming in the field of robotics.

“Government investment in ground combat robotics is critical to ensuring U.S. maneuver forces maintain a marked combat advantage,” Schaefer-Lay said.

The researchers believe giving the robot context “fill in the gaps to make effective decisions more quickly” and “augments robot communications to suit the needs of the team under a variety of environments and team organizations and across missions.”

army robot

The researchers say this system will help robots understand the situation they’re in, the humans they’re surrounded by and how they can best help the team meet its objectives. They plan to continue doing research to develop this A.I. system.

See also: We’re running out of time to stop killer robots

The robots we’re talking about right now aren’t going into a war zone and killing people. These robots merely help support troop activities by doing things like transporting equipment.

Supply robots have been tested in places like Afghanistan, and they’re pretty popular in the military. The Army is also looking to deploy “Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicles” and “Robotic Combat Vehicles” in the near future. The latter is said to be for making “contact with the enemy before soldiers,” which could be it’d be controlled remotely, but it also makes it sound like we’re getting a lot closer to autonomous weapons.

We could be approaching a situation where the Army may begin utilizing what are often called “killer robots,” and many think that’s a serious problem. With A.I. systems like this, we might end up in a place where robots are deciding who lives and who dies.

As former Google employee Laura Nolan told Inverse in September, various countries could soon start utilizing killer robots, and that could cause major problems

“Autonomous weapons are potential weapons of mass destruction,” Nolan said. “They need to be made taboo in the same way that chemical and biological weapons are.”

The Department of Defense doesn’t currently allow autonomous weapons to be used on the battlefield, but there’s not really anything stopping them from changing that policy. They could even change the policy without telling anyone, especially since President Donald Trump has made military activities less transparent than they’ve been in the past. That’s why activists who oppose killer robots think the United States and all other countries need to sign a treaty saying they will never use them.