Welcome to Throw Forward Thursday. My name is Graeme Codrington and come with me. Come with me to the very neardistant future in the second half of the 2020s, when we literally unleash the dogs of war. Yes, we are talking about the use of robotics in the military. Robots for war.
It was Albert Einstein, I believe, who said when he saw the devastation that the nuclear bombs had caused at the end of the Second World War, that he didn’t know how the Third World War would be fought, but he did know that the Fourth World War would be fought with sticks and stones. His insight was that unfortunately, throughout the history of humanity, whenever a new technology has emerged, it has very quickly being picked up by the military, used for destructive purposes. And with the atomic bomb, we now had the ability to destroy civilization as we know it.
I think that as we look at the military at the moment, the military is very interested in what we spoke about in the Throw Forward studio last week. And that is about the use of robotics.
Last week we spoke about robotic exoskeletons. And that’s the first of three ways that I think the military will use robotics. Those exoskeletons, which I’m sure a lot of the world’s militaries are busy experimenting with it was only Taiwan who’s really given us pictures of their soldiers using these suits to help them to become stronger, to run faster, to be able to respond quicker. I think that that’s definitely coming. But there’s two other ways that the military will use robotics.
The first is with drones. And here I’m not talking about the massive Hellfire from the sky, massive, huge drones that are essentially just flying bombs that have been used for the last 15 years or so by the American military, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, in particular, to just rain Hellfire from the sky and kill everybody in sight. The American military has shown us the devastation it can cause, and the operators can sit in a nice, comfortable seat across back in Washington in the United States. No problem at all.
So that exists.
But I think it goes further than that. If you take a little mini drone and you put some tracking equipment, a camera and a little bit of artificial intelligence and then some kind of ammunition, an exploding device, like a bomb or a hand grenade, or possibly even a gun, you can then send these minidrones out to attack people. Hollywood’s already picked up on the story in one of those White House down movies where I think Morgan Freeman was the President and was attacked by a whole swarm of drones.
And I think the scary thing is if those drones get a little bit of artificial intelligence, maybe just starting with facial recognition, or maybe it’s some of the tracking technology that already exists, right? You can already do this with a drone to get a really good selfie.
While you’re out running or skiing, you put a drone up in the sky, you get it to fix on an object. And then as an object moves, the drone tracks the object and keeps it in shot. Add a bit of facial recognition to that. And we can get these drones targeting people. Wonderful thing if you can do that to target a particular bad person or a terrorist and so on.
But yes, the ability of that to go wrong, the ability of that to attack the wrong people. Well, I’m sure we all know that that’s going to happen of course. I think the third way that the military is going to use robots in war is these very interesting, but possibly scary looking Boston dynamic, so called robotic dogs. They’ve been around for about ten years already, but they are shifting into a new gear now, as we always thought they would.
And that is where the military starts to put machine guns and cannons and explosive devices on top of these robotic dogs. And again, probably adding a bit of artificial intelligence for facial recognition and tracking unleash the dogs of war at one level, this could be a good thing, right. If two countries have to go to war for whatever reason, people think they have to go to war for it’s probably better to send an army of robots off to fight each other rather than sending our children to go and fight each other and die in the process.
Kind of, in a sense, turn the whole war system into a massive computer game where you’ve just got two competing armies clashing against each other. We play it all out in computer game style, the big robotic wars, and whoever wins wins.
But of course, we know that that’s not going to happen. Why would you do that? Then you might as well play video games, and the winner of the video games gets to rule the world. I’m sure there’s some geek in a basement somewhere. You’d be very comfortable with that as the future.
But it isn’t going to be that these are going to be used more in terrorism and counterterrorism measures, more in a sort of dirty tricks war. And it’s going to be used by the biggest powers in the world. And it’s going to be used by countries that think of themselves as the world’s policemen, but are actually the world’s terrorists. And yes, the United States. I am talking about you.
So some throw forward Thursdays are not as fun as others because I think this one is coming one way or the other. It would be wonderful if we could get together as a global community through the United Nations and come up with additions to the Geneva Conventions on warfare. That would add the fact that we weren’t allowed to use some of these robotics. We weren’t allowed to use artificial intelligence in war. I think we should do that.
I think we should have those conventions so that we at least know that people who use this technology are doing so illegally and are committing war crimes. But again, we know that there are certain countries who do not sign up to those conventions and who, even if they did sign up to them, probably wouldn’t abide by them anyway. And yes, I am talking again about you, United States of America. So in the future, we will have robotic wars. And I don’t think it’s going to be as fun as a video game as I say when we look at the future.
It’s not always fun, but it is always interesting and hopefully gives us some food for thought, as always. Thank you for joining me in the throw Forward Thursday studio. You know how to get hold of me by now. It’s askaboutthefuture.com and you can give me your insights, your input.
Ask any question you like about the future future and we will engage with it. Don’t forget to like and subscribe to get notified and reminded that every Thursday you can join me here in the future. See what happens.
Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.