The Age Of Killer Robots May Have Already Begun
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May 29, 2021: Article says that it has been confirmed that sometime late in 2020, a Turkish-made STM Kargu-2 drone was deployed in combat against Libyan soldiers. What makes this noteworthy is that is an autonomous weapon system, one that hunts and kills on its own initiative rather than needing guidance to the target by and/or permission to fire from a human operator.

This raises all sorts of moral and ethical issues, as it could eventually lead to a Robot War scenario… or, somewhat less technologically extreme but certainly no less horrifying, a world where nearly every nation is constantly at war. (See below)

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Game and Story Use

  • Elimination of "man-in-the-loop" control is a key step here - as long as a human is still required to make the fire/no fire decision you don't have a true killer robot, just a very advanced targeting system. Once that control moves to "man-on-the-loop" (i.e. one where the human has supervisory control and a veto) however, the system is effectively an autonomous one in a funny hat.
  • Another interesting question may arise if AIs turn out to be better at avoiding false positives than humans - if, for example, self targeting drones turn out to be less prone to attacking civilian targets by mistake … what might that do to international consensus on their use?
  • The article doesn't directly elaborate on how this leads to endless world-wide warfare, but it seems the thinking goes something like this: Governments would wage war more often, if not for the reluctance of their citizens to go fight those wars on foreign shores. Autonomous kill drones have no such reluctance and don't cost nearly as much as training and feeding a soldier. They can be deployed cheaply in great numbers, and dropped behind enemy lines to wage an automated and perpetual guerrilla war. The entire world becomes a war zone.
  • These sort of automata could outlive the civilisation that created them - this is a staple of post apocalyptic fiction that involves autonomous war-robots roaming about looking for (anything that resembles) the old enemy. TSR's Gamma World was a trailblazer for this in ttRPGs, but arguably a lot of the golems and what have you of traditional fantasy are a magitek equivalent.
  • Equip them with their own autonomous infrastructure and support services and you have the potential for a machine "species" that takes the place of its creators.
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