IF MERELY WATCHING The Terminator gave you a case of the heebie-geebies, hold on tight because the rise of the machines may be upon us sooner than you’d think. That’s right, the US has executed the first launch of a drone completely piloted by artificial intelligence.
We’re not talking about a blonde dyed brunette either. The X-47B (who comes up with these names?) drone represents the development of machines with the ability to dispense death with absolutely no human intervention whatsoever.
After a series of upcoming sea trials planned for this year, the X-47B is set to become the world’s first unmanned aircraft piloted by artificial intelligence rather than a remote human operator. (Is it just me, or is the only thing missing here a built-in loud hailer to boom out the obvious question, “Are you Sarah Ann Conner?”).
According to the defense contractor’s PR blurb, the X-47B was five-years in the making and sports a wingspan of just 18.9m.
After a bunch of land-based steam catapult launches designed to simulate what the X-47B would be likely to experience on the deck of an aircraft carrier, the Navy were pretty pretty impressed by the aircraft’s performance.
Navy Engineers had planned 50 test flights but as the X-47B performed well beyond initial expectations, the Navy stopped after 16 trial launches.
While the many thousands of other unmanned drones already in the skies are piloted remotely by a human sitting on the other side of the globe, the X-47B will truly be autonomous, utilising inputs from a myriad of sensors and its own in-built digital artificial intelligence to make its own decisions about where to fly and who to take out.
Humans will still have a the ultimate say in the X-47B’s overall mission parameters, but the X-47B will be able to make split-second decisions all on its own. Hasta-la-vista, baby!
If the evil flying hunter killers of SkyNet’s self-aware nightmare from the Terminator films has you worried, take some small comfort in the fact that the Pentagon has confirmed that any decision to hurt or kill a human being would never be made by a machine. So the big question in my mind is why did they authorise the manufacture of a fully autonomous flying killing machine? PAT PILCHER