Modern drones have been around for a few decades. They provide strategic surveillance and air-strike capabilities while removing human pilots from harm. Early drones were essentially controlled remotely by pilots at a safe distance from the battlefield, but modern military drones are increasingly operated autonomously by artificial intelligence (AI) computer systems. Where does the human fit into the decision-making process?
In this video, James Rogers, DIAS Associate Professor in War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark, non-resident senior fellow at Cornell University and associate fellow at the London School of Economics, explores the three types of human involvement: in the loop, on the loop and outside the loop. Right now, humans are in the loop by piloting and operating the weapons remotely. On the loop means that the human isn’t in direct control at all times but takes control over any decisions the machine makes. Lastly, and of most concern, is when the human is outside the loop of control. In the near future, AI-powered drones could execute entire missions without human intervention, only reporting back the result after the attack is complete.
Rogers argues that a human should always be in the loop of control when the fate of another human being is at risk — these decisions should never be left in the hands of a computer.