Collaborating Authors


'Machines set loose to slaughter': the dangerous rise of military AI


Two menacing men stand next to a white van in a field, holding remote controls. They open the van's back doors, and the whining sound of quadcopter drones crescendos. They flip a switch, and the drones swarm out like bats from a cave. In a few seconds, we cut to a college classroom. The students scream in terror, trapped inside, as the drones attack with deadly force. The lesson that the film, Slaughterbots, is trying to impart is clear: tiny killer robots are either here or a small technological advance away. And existing defences are weak or nonexistent.

Drones – the New Critical Infrastructure


Be prepared in the near future when you gaze into the blue skies to perceive a whole series of strange-looking things – no, they will not be birds, nor planes, or even superman. They may be temporarily, and in some cases startlingly mistaken as UFOs, given their bizarre and ominous appearance. But, in due course, they will become recognized as valuable objects of a new era of human-made flying machines, intended to serve a broad range of missions and objectives. Many such applications are already incorporated and well entrenched in serving essential functions for extending capabilities in our vital infrastructures such as transportation, utilities, the electric grid, agriculture, emergency services, and many others. Rapidly advancing technologies have made possible the dramatic capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV/drones) to uniquely perform various functions that were inconceivable a mere few years ago.

Human-in-the-Loop Methods for Data-Driven and Reinforcement Learning Systems Artificial Intelligence

Recent successes combine reinforcement learning algorithms and deep neural networks, despite reinforcement learning not being widely applied to robotics and real world scenarios. This can be attributed to the fact that current state-of-the-art, end-to-end reinforcement learning approaches still require thousands or millions of data samples to converge to a satisfactory policy and are subject to catastrophic failures during training. Conversely, in real world scenarios and after just a few data samples, humans are able to either provide demonstrations of the task, intervene to prevent catastrophic actions, or simply evaluate if the policy is performing correctly. This research investigates how to integrate these human interaction modalities to the reinforcement learning loop, increasing sample efficiency and enabling real-time reinforcement learning in robotics and real world scenarios. This novel theoretical foundation is called Cycle-of-Learning, a reference to how different human interaction modalities, namely, task demonstration, intervention, and evaluation, are cycled and combined to reinforcement learning algorithms. Results presented in this work show that the reward signal that is learned based upon human interaction accelerates the rate of learning of reinforcement learning algorithms and that learning from a combination of human demonstrations and interventions is faster and more sample efficient when compared to traditional supervised learning algorithms. Finally, Cycle-of-Learning develops an effective transition between policies learned using human demonstrations and interventions to reinforcement learning. The theoretical foundation developed by this research opens new research paths to human-agent teaming scenarios where autonomous agents are able to learn from human teammates and adapt to mission performance metrics in real-time and in real world scenarios.

Death by drone: How can states justify targeted killings?

Al Jazeera

In a move that caused a ripple effect across the Middle East, Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad's international airport on January 3. On that day, the Pentagon announced the attack was carried out "at the direction of the president". In a new report examining the legality of armed drones and the Soleimani killing in particular, Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial and arbitrary killings, said the US raid that killed Soleimani was "unlawful". Callamard presented her report at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday. The United States, which is not a member after quitting the council in 2018, rejected the report saying it gave "a pass to terrorists". In Callamard's view, the consequences of targeted killings by armed drones have been neglected by states.

Online Mapping and Motion Planning under Uncertainty for Safe Navigation in Unknown Environments Artificial Intelligence

Safe autonomous navigation is an essential and challenging problem for robots operating in highly unstructured or completely unknown environments. Under these conditions, not only robotic systems must deal with limited localisation information, but also their manoeuvrability is constrained by their dynamics and often suffer from uncertainty. In order to cope with these constraints, this manuscript proposes an uncertainty-based framework for mapping and planning feasible motions online with probabilistic safety-guarantees. The proposed approach deals with the motion, probabilistic safety, and online computation constraints by: (i) incrementally mapping the surroundings to build an uncertainty-aware representation of the environment, and (ii) iteratively (re)planning trajectories to goal that are kinodynamically feasible and probabilistically safe through a multi-layered sampling-based planner in the belief space. In-depth empirical analyses illustrate some important properties of this approach, namely, (a) the multi-layered planning strategy enables rapid exploration of the high-dimensional belief space while preserving asymptotic optimality and completeness guarantees, and (b) the proposed routine for probabilistic collision checking results in tighter probability bounds in comparison to other uncertainty-aware planners in the literature. Furthermore, real-world in-water experimental evaluation on a non-holonomic torpedo-shaped autonomous underwater vehicle and simulated trials in the Stairwell scenario of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge 2019 on a quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicle demonstrate the efficacy of the method as well as its suitability for systems with limited on-board computational power.

Ten Ways the Precautionary Principle Undermines Progress in Artificial Intelligence


Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to deliver significant social and economic benefits, including reducing accidental deaths and injuries, making new scientific discoveries, and increasing productivity.[1] However, an increasing number of activists, scholars, and pundits see AI as inherently risky, creating substantial negative impacts such as eliminating jobs, eroding personal liberties, and reducing human intelligence.[2] Some even see AI as dehumanizing, dystopian, and a threat to humanity.[3] As such, the world is dividing into two camps regarding AI: those who support the technology and those who oppose it. Unfortunately, the latter camp is increasingly dominating AI discussions, not just in the United States, but in many nations around the world. There should be no doubt that nations that tilt toward fear rather than optimism are more likely to put in place policies and practices that limit AI development and adoption, which will hurt their economic growth, social ...

A Game Theoretical Framework for the Evaluation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airspace Integration Concepts Machine Learning

Predicting the outcomes of integrating Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) into the National Aerospace (NAS) is a complex problem which is required to be addressed by simulation studies before allowing the routine access of UAS into the NAS. This thesis focuses on providing 2D and 3D simulation frameworks using a game theoretical methodology to evaluate integration concepts in scenarios where manned and unmanned air vehicles co-exist. The fundamental gap in the literature is that the models of interaction between manned and unmanned vehicles are insufficient: a) they assume that pilot behavior is known a priori and b) they disregard decision making processes. The contribution of this work is to propose a modeling framework, in which, human pilot reactions are modeled using reinforcement learning and a game theoretical concept called level-k reasoning to fill this gap. The level-k reasoning concept is based on the assumption that humans have various levels of decision making. Reinforcement learning is a mathematical learning method that is rooted in human learning. In this work, a classical and an approximate reinforcement learning (Neural Fitted Q Iteration) methods are used to model time-extended decisions of pilots with 2D and 3D maneuvers. An analysis of UAS integration is conducted using example scenarios in the presence of manned aircraft and fully autonomous UAS equipped with sense and avoid algorithms.

Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Ethics, and the Military: A Canadian Perspective

AI Magazine

Defense and security organizations depend upon science and technology to meet operational needs, predict and counter threats, and meet increasingly complex demands of modern warfare. Artificial intelligence and robotics could provide solutions to a wide range of military gaps and deficiencies. At the same time, the unique and rapidly evolving nature of AI and robotics challenges existing polices, regulations, and values, and introduces complex ethical issues that might impede their development, evaluation, and use by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Early consideration of potential ethical issues raised by military use of emerging AI and robotics technologies in development is critical to their effective implementation. This article presents an ethics assessment framework for emerging AI and robotics technologies. It is designed to help technology developers, policymakers, decision makers, and other stakeholders identify and broadly consider potential ethical issues that might arise with the military use and integration of emerging AI and robotics technologies of interest. We also provide a contextual environment for our framework, as well as an example of how our framework can be applied to a specific technology. Finally, we briefly identify and address several pervasive issues that arose during our research.

U.S. Air Force Research Lab Awards GE TEAMS Program - sUAS News - The Business of Drones


A Project Task Assignment for the Teaming-Enabled Architectures for Manned-Unmanned Systems (TEAMS) prototype program was recently awarded to GE Aviation. The project is under the authority of the Base Vertical Lift Consortium Project Agreement and is sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Research Lab (AFRL). "The TEAMS program is a tremendous opportunity for GE to work closely with AFRL and our industry partners to prototype architectures that will enable the next generation of Manned-Unmanned Teaming capabilities," says John Kormash, director of Advanced & Special Programs for GE Aviation. "GE's experience and investments in the areas of architecture, modeling, simulation, and system instantiations will enhance the AFRL's objectives of developing open, flexible, and scalable solutions for tomorrow's autonomous vehicles." TEAMS is an architectural modeling and prototyping effort under the AFRL's Flexible, Assured Manned-Unmanned Systems (FAMUS) program.