Oh boy. The Russians may have just stepped up their battlefield technology game by purchasing some new technology from the makers of the famous AK-47, the Concern Kalashnikov.
The AK-47 is likely the most famous firearm on the planet and it is prized for it’s rugged dependability, it’s one of the most important pieces of battlefield technology the world has ever seen. Now Kalashnikov is hoping that their latest piece of technology will build upon that legacy and provide a new standard in armaments.
Kalashnikov has just unveiled a new robotic gun system that they’ve created for the Russian military and it looks terrifying.
The system will use artificial intelligence (AI) to range in targets and then fire based on the input the computer receives, it even seems that the system can be mounted as a turret on remote controlled vehicles. The Russian News agency TASS spoke with Kalashnikov’s director of communications, Sofiya Ivanova, who told them that the company was planning to roll out a wide range of products for the Russian military based on the same technology, “In the imminent future, the group will unveil a range of products based on neural networks. A fully automated combat module featuring this technology is planned to be demonstrated at the Army-2017 forum.”
Ivanova’s use of the term “neural network” is simply another nod to the use of AI. The basic point is that the computer system running the weaponry can learn, and then adjust its behavior based on a preset algorithm and the experience it acquires in the field. It’s pretty scary stuff pulled right from scenes in the Terminator movies. In fact, this just underscores a warning made this past week by Tesla founder, Elon Musk. Musk recently spoke at a gathering of the nation’s Governors (the 2017 National Governors Association) where he explained that artificial intelligence is “the biggest risk we face as a civilization.” “AI is a rare case where we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive because if we’re reactive in AI regulation it’s too late,” Musk told the gathering of Governors. “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs or bad food were not. They were harmful to a set of individuals but they were not harmful to society as a whole.”
This latest announcement from Kalashnikov seems to confirm the worst of Musk’s fears.
Even more worrisome is the fact that as Russia continues to embrace such battlefield technology, the American military continues to eschew it. Philosophically, the United States worries that a military stocked with robotic armaments cannot make decision based on human morality. There is also concerns about ensuring that the technology remains under allied control, something which cannot always be guaranteed in a battlefield scenario. However, as Russia continues to advance in their use of robotics on the battlefield the United States will have to find a way to level the technological playing field, or risk giving Russia an important technological advantage.