Machine Speed Slugfest
Military powers around the world are working on autonomous weapon systems that could revolutionize warfare. The technology impact researcher Reinhard Grünwald warns of an unprecedented escalation on the battlefield.
Spectrum: Dr. Grünwald, you conducted a comprehensive study on autonomous weapon systems on behalf of the Bundestag. They write that warfare could be facing a paradigm shift. What makes you think that?
Grünwald: One of the reasons for our report was the topic of drones, which is currently developing rapidly. Ten years ago only the USA had such devices, today there are about 30 states. The drones are still controlled by joysticks by pilots who are sitting in a military installation and reacting to video images. But the aircraft are already partially automated: the US Global Hawk, for example, can take off and land independently, navigate to target coordinates and even fly around enemy radar systems. So you can see it as the forerunner of an autonomous weapon system that acts entirely without consulting a human.
When does an automated system become an autonomous one?
We racked our brains over this question for a long time while writing the report. In the end, there is no sharp definition here that everyone accepts. Depending on what a system can do, what it does and in which application scenarios it is used, there are different opinions. This also makes it difficult linguistically and leads to misunderstandings …