Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War

Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War

by Paul Scharre


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A Bill Gates Top Five Book of 2018

A Pentagon defense expert and former U.S. Army Ranger explores what it would mean to give machines authority over the ultimate decision of life or death.

What happens when a Predator drone has as much autonomy as a Google car? Or when a weapon that can hunt its own targets is hacked? Although it sounds like science fiction, the technology already exists to create weapons that can attack targets without human input. Paul Scharre, a leading expert in emerging weapons technologies, draws on deep research and firsthand experience to explore how these next-generation weapons are changing warfare.

Scharre’s far-ranging investigation examines the emergence of autonomous weapons, the movement to ban them, and the legal and ethical issues surrounding their use. He spotlights artificial intelligence in military technology, spanning decades of innovation from German noise-seeking Wren torpedoes in World War II—antecedents of today’s homing missiles—to autonomous cyber weapons, submarine-hunting robot ships, and robot tank armies. Through interviews with defense experts, ethicists, psychologists, and activists, Scharre surveys what challenges might face "centaur warfighters" on future battlefields, which will combine human and machine cognition. We’ve made tremendous technological progress in the past few decades, but we have also glimpsed the terrifying mishaps that can result from complex automated systems—such as when advanced F-22 fighter jets experienced a computer meltdown the first time they flew over the International Date Line.

At least thirty countries already have defensive autonomous weapons that operate under human supervision. Around the globe, militaries are racing to build robotic weapons with increasing autonomy. The ethical questions within this book grow more pressing each day. To what extent should such technologies be advanced? And if responsible democracies ban them, would that stop rogue regimes from taking advantage? At the forefront of a game-changing debate, Army of None engages military history, global policy, and cutting-edge science to argue that we must embrace technology where it can make war more precise and humane, but without surrendering human judgment. When the choice is life or death, there is no replacement for the human heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393608984
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/24/2018
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

A former U.S. Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Paul Scharre is the director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Time, Foreign Affairs, and Politico, and he appears frequently on CNN, FOX News, NPR, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Virginia.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Power Over Life and Death 1

Part I Robopocalypse Now

1 The Coming Swarm: The Military Robotics Revolution 11

2 The Terminator And The Roomba: What Is Autonomy? 26

3 Machines That Kill: What Is an Autonomous Weapon? 35

Part II Building The Terminator

4 The Future Being Built Today: Autonomous Missiles, Drones, and Robot Swarms 59

5 Inside The Puzzle Palace: Is the Pentagon Building Autonomous Weapons? 78

6 Crossing The Threshold: Approving Autonomous Weapons 89

7 World War R: Robotic Weapons around the World 102

8 Garage Bots: DIY Killer Robots 120

Part III Runaway Gun

9 Robots Run Amok: Failure in Autonomous Systems 137

10 Command And Decision: Can Autonomous Weapons Be Used Safely? 161

11 Black Box: The Weird, Alien World of Deep Neural Networks 180

12 Failing Deadly: The Risk of Autonomous Weapons 189

Part IV Flash War

13 Bot vs. Bot: An Arms Race in Speed 199

14 The Invisible War: Autonomy in Cyberspace 211

15 "Summoning The Demon": The Rise of Intelligent Machines 231

Part V The Fight To Ban Autonomous Weapons

16 Robots On Trial: Autonomous Weapons and the Laws of War 251

17 Soulless Killers: The Morality of Autonomous Weapons 271

18 Playing With Fire: Autonomous Weapons and Stability 297

Part VI Averting Armageddon: The Weapon Of Policy

19 Centaur Warfighters: Humans + Machines 321

20 The Pope And The Crossbow: The Mixed History of Arms Control 331

21 Are Autonomous Weapons Inevitable?: The Search for Lethal Laws of Robotics 346


No Fate but What We Make 360


How Robotic Weapon Are Transforming the Battlefield Today 363

Notes 369

Acknowledgments 425

Abbreviations 427

Illustration Credits 429

Index 431

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