An old science fiction nightmare; killer robots, is becoming a reality in Ukraine and nobody is noticing. Hence, slaughterbots, killbots, terminators, or killer robots are real and waging war in Ukraine.
Unfortunately, the media is using many euphemisms to hide the truth of what is happening in Ukraine. News stories discuss drones, autonomous weapons, kamikaze drones, and “loitering munitions” as writers avoid the r-word.
Nobody wants to admit the reality of what is happening in Ukraine. Even the experts are eager to hide the ugly truth. Machines are waging war and killing people. Frighteningly, it appears machines can kill people without human guidance.
Drones vs. Robots
It is easy to hide the truth because journalists refuse to discuss the difference between drones and robots.
To explain, a drone is a remote controlled vehicle. For example, expert pilots operate the infamous American Predator drone from a long-distance.
In contrast, a robot is a machine that independently performs a task. To elaborate, the drone is under human control, while the robot needs no human guidance.
Robots are deadlier than drones
Robots are far deadlier than drones because an enemy can jam or hack drones. Conversely, somebody turns a robot loose, and it wages war on its own.
I think the autonomous war machines they are using in Ukraine are robots. For example, so-called kamikaze drones that fly into enemy tanks and autonomous munitions.
An autonomous munition is a robot they can program to attack in the future. For instance, Ukrainian soldiers can hide a robot in an area Russians are about to overrun. The robot can attack Russian tanks from behind days or even weeks in the future.
Are Robots Fighting in Ukraine?
Frighteningly, it is hard to tell how many robots are fighting in Ukraine. For example, we cannot tell if the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 is a remote-controlled drone or a robot plane.
I wonder if artificial intelligence (AI) operates the Bayraktar TB2. Notably, the craft’s manufacturer, Bayraktar, claims the TB2 has flown for 27 hours and three minutes straight. Hence, the TB2 could be capable of autonomous operation. Thus, the Bayraktar TB2 could be a robot and not a drone.
One reason the Bayraktar TB2 is so-effective is that it could have no operators, and no radio signals to jam or intercept. The Russians cannot track down the operators and kill them, jam the control signals, or hack into the TB2’s controls. Instead, the TB2 takes off and goes hunting for Russian vehicles and guns to destroy.
Robot Fighter Jets are Here
The TB2’s success should scare us to death because Bayraktar just put a robot fighter jet into production.
The Kızılelma National Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle System could start flying in 2023, Daily Sabah reports. Interestingly, the Kızılelma could operate from aircraft carriers and other ships. Thus, the world’s first robot fighter jet is here and few people notice.
Americans need to be scared because something like Kızılelma could wreak havoc on US forces. For example, autonomous planes operating from enemy ships or islands could sink most of a US fleet.
If the TB2 can destroy Russian tanks, it could destroy American tanks. Similarly, TB2s or Kızılelmas could follow US fighter jets back their base and destroy American air power on the ground.
Killbots are Here
I think Ukraine is the site of the world’s first robot war. Frighteningly, one of the world’s most-respected fighting forces, the Russian Army seems to have no defense against Ukrainian bots.
The morality of the Ukraine robot war is bothersome. Unmanned aerial vehicles’ (UAVs) destruction of invading Russian tanks is laudable. However, what happens when the same drones kill young Russian conscripts?
Notably, Ukrainian UAVs could target individual Russians, including generals, now, The Washington Post speculates. Hence, robots that can track down and kill specific people could be a reality. Thus, real-life terminators could operate in Ukraine.
Most observers will applaud the use of UAVs to kill Russian generals. However, the same people will be horrified if a Russian UAV assassinates Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Okay, both Russian generals and Zelenskyy are legitimate military targets. But bad guys could turn the same technology against dissidents and civilians. For example, Russians could terrorize Ukrainian civilians by deploying armed drones to attack any people in besieged cities.
Similarly, a tyrant such as Putin, or his buddy Bashar al-Assad, could send UAVs to kill dissidents, opponents, or critics. Remember, Putin has already used chemical weapons on dissidents. Killbots are a logical progression in Putin’s arsenal of death.
The Morality of Killer Robots
We need to discuss the morality of robot warfare because it has started. The genie is out of the bottle and few people notice.
Historically, few people notice the first use of most new technologies. For example, nobody noticed the first use of machine guns in the US Civil War. Similarly, the first deployment of tanks in World War I had little effect. In both cases, the new weapons were so crude and cumbersome they had little effect.
However, both machine guns and tanks became dominant weapon systems in a few decades. For example, machine guns ruled the battlefield and killed millions of people in World War I, while tanks became the principal land weapons of World War II.
A Science Fiction Nightmare comes to Life
I think robots are experiencing a similar breakthrough in Ukraine. For the first time, autonomous weapons could be the dominant force on the battlefield. Moreover, autonomous weapons seem to be cheaper and more effective than Russia’s giant and ponderous traditional military.
For better or worse, robots could own the battlefield, and human soldiers could become a hunted target. Hence, ordinary people could find themselves in a science fiction nightmare.
The morality of that nightmare is both messy and complex. Ukrainians think robots are wonderful after seeing the humiliation of the Russian Army. However, Russian families who are burying their sons will have a different view of the situation
The Age of Robot War
Similarly, I predict many people who are applauding Ukraine’s UAV war today will be horrified when some tyrant or terrorist turns killer robots against unarmed civilians. We need to ask ourselves now, do we want ISIS or the drug cartels to have killer robots?
History shows criminals and terrorists will get their hands on autonomous weapons at some point. Notably, they invented submachine guns for World War I trench combat, yet such weapons first became famous in the hands of gangsters in Prohibition era America.
We need to prepare for robot war and get ready for the use of killbots against unarmed civilians. The age of robot war has begun and nobody is noticing.