back to article AI, AI, captain: Royal Navy warships to set sail with computer officers

The Royal Navy is planning to step up its use of AI to improve maritime defence, beginning with STARTLE, which is AI software that can can spot potential threats. At a briefing titled "Artificial Intelligence in Royal Navy Warships" hosted by non-profit TechUK, Blighty's navy announced it was keen to explore the potential of …

  1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Pirate

    Put it on Britain's new carriers!

    "After a review of our operational weaponry, maneuverability and the tactical threats, I advise that we abandon ship."

    1. NoneSuch
      Terminator

      Re: Put it on Britain's new carriers!

      Someone just gave SKYNET a battleship?

      What can possibly go wrong?

    2. Kurt Meyer

      Re: Put it on Britain's new carriers!

      "After a review of our operational weaponry, maneuverability and the tactical threats, I advise that we abandon ship."

      I wonder if Captain D'Oyly-Hughes said that very thing, after he was startled?

      An AI couldn't possibly do a worse job of decision making.

      1. Yesnomaybe
        Alert

        Re: Put it on Britain's new carriers!

        Calling this AI is a bit of a stretch, but very interesting nevertheless.

        An AI would be physically unable to abandon ship, so is likely to insist that the ship fights to the last man in order to try to preserve itself.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Put it on Britain's new carriers!

          An AI doesn't need to physically abandon ship, merely transfer its code elsewhere.

          It probably left the boat before giving the warning.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Put it on Britain's new carriers!

        I wonder if Captain D'Oyly-Hughes said that very thing, after he was startled?

        Nothing to see there, move along, business as usual in Royal Navy at rear-admiral (should be called bum-admiral) level or above in WW2.

        Not particularly different from Lord Dudley ordering a retreat of: 2 Battleships, 1 Aircraft carrier, 6 cruisers, 20 destroyers, dedicated AA frigate, 4 corvettes and 4 mobilized Scottish fishermen trawlers at the mere whiff of a single German Battleship leaving port. In fact identical to the letter - the Scottish fishermen under the command of a retired teacher refused to obey the idiotic and traitorous order (the sole difference - they did not get court-martialed, for PR reasons).

        The Scots told Dudley to go feck himself, commandeered several ships including one carrying M4 Shermans on the deck, broke the factory seals on them and loaded them with ammo. With this "improvised cruiser" leading the "fleet" they made a run for the ice edge. All ships in that group survived too. This one would have made a fantastic plot for a gritty war movie (you can pretty much slot Clooney as the retired teacher commanding one of the trawlers and put Matt Damon as one of the fishermen).

        It is a movie which will never be made though as it will have to show what a bunch of hapless *** were in British fleet command in WW2. All the way to the top starting from somewhere around battleship/aircraft carrier commander and up. The incompetent maneuvering of the Hood and its inability to get out of a straddle, the idiocy of sending the Repulse and the Prince of Whales with no air cover against the Japanese where not exceptions and mishaps - they were the norm.

        Vindictive hapless *** too - while the Scots which broke ranks, disobeyed the retreat orders and faced the German submarines and the Luftwaffe alone never faced a court-martial, the British government till this day including Blair and Cameron has prevented the survivors receiving the Russian medals for bravery awarded to them.

  2. MrDamage

    And so it begins

    > "STARTLE, which is AI software that can can spot potential threats."

    How long until it comes to realise that I all approaching enemies are human, then all humans are therefore enemies?

    Will the T-101 that kills the last human please turn out the lights?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: And so it begins

      more likely it will think like a robot and just blast out orders "from the manual" for any given situation, including those that are a close approximate match according to the AI. [comedy ensues if life preservers are distributed during a fire, for example].

      unlike humans, for which (above the rank of Lt JG) we would expect at least SOME intelligent decision-making to happen before orders are given...

  3. frank ly Silver badge

    STARTLE .... NELSON

    Are they acronyms?

    From the Roke Manor website:

    "STARTLE detects anomalous or threatening conditions by emulating the mammalian conditioned-fear response mechanism."

    Over to you ......

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: STARTLE .... NELSON

      Are they acronyms?

      From the Roke Manor website:

      "STARTLE detects anomalous or threatening conditions by emulating the mammalian conditioned-fear response mechanism."

      Over to you ......

      If the warship is STARTLEd, might it not PANIC or FREEZE ?

      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: STARTLE .... NELSON

        Well, if it was a French AI, then it may surrender and if it was a German AI, then it may freeze if it is in Russia.

        1. Kolchack
          Trollface

          Re: STARTLE .... NELSON

          Fortunately, since it is a UK government project, it won't be delivered...

  4. Mage Silver badge

    Oh dear

    Words fail ...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Battlestar Galactica

    Maybe the Royal Navy needs to watch Battlestar Galactica (either version).

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Battlestar Galactica

      They're probably too busy reading Iain M Banks for ideas on what to call things...

  6. Sam 15

    Wrong Ship

    You illustrated this article with a stock picture of HMS Belfast.

    Belfast isn't a navy ship since she was decommissioned in 1963.

    What you really need is a picture of a modern navy ship which is still in commission.

    HMS Victory for example.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: Wrong Ship

      I'm too slow... here, have a photo:

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2a/HMS_Victory_2015.jpg

  7. Chris G Silver badge

    Chortle

    Will be the response of the opposing AI when it meets an F-35 free Startle equipped RN Aircraft carrier with no defending screen of destroyers.

  8. Graham Dawson

    Sounds like someone's a Iain M Banks fan...

    1. M7S

      re: Iain M. Banks reference

      Careful, that might be seen as evidence of Culture on El Reg

  9. bep

    STARTLE?

    Captain: "STARTLE, what's that blip over there?"

    STARTLE; "Kiss me Hardy".

    Captain: "Pardon ?!?"

  10. John Jennings

    Ian M Banks

    The first ship should be called 'Attitude Adjuster'

    Or...

    GSV Prosthetic Conscience

    Or

    Gray Area / meatfucker?

    1. Graham Dawson

      Nah. Call it The First Hints Of A Gravitas Shortfall.

  11. Tom 64
    Pint

    Someone please,

    notify Linda Hamilton! She should be watching these developments.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows For Warships

    I saw a documentary TV show about some new UK ship (maybe 5 years ago), the first of its type, built by 'Billions Above Estimate' (BAE). Everyone was very proud of the Windows For Warships implementation, and how rugged and Manly-Man the software was.

    On its first exercise, the software crashed within two minutes.

    Took quite some time to reboot.

    Just sayin'.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Windows For Warships

      Won't the AI take a look, upgrade to Win10, cough, sputter, and download Linux?

  13. Brian Miller Silver badge

    "Brain the size of a planet..."

    The software explicitly logs its decisions. which makes the system more transparent, and decisions are ultimately signed off by humans.

    "... and I'm not allowed to do anything until one of you lot scribbles on a piece of paper. I’ve worked out an answer to the square root of minus one, and they need to scribble on a piece of paper to show that they agree with me. And never a relief from the terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side."

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    and then the MoD will hand it to the Americans

    Isn't that how this usually ends?

  15. herman Silver badge

    Shiver me timbers mate, the word is 'Aye'!.

  16. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    You've left out the most important bit.

    What does STARTLE stand for?

    I assume it is an acronym - generated by the Governments billion-pound What Acronym Suits This Exercise unit.

    1. Graham Dawson

      Re: You've left out the most important bit.

      Some Twat Always Reboots The Logging Endpoint.

      Or maybe

      Send To Admiralty: Ratings Tired, Left Early

  17. Ashley_Pomeroy

    "Sir, the computer has spotted a whale. It recommends that we change course. The report is several thousand words long and ends with 'to the last, STARTLE will grapple with thee'. Shall I flip the switch again?"

  18. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    How does it score on the "Things for the Minister to stand in front of" scale?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1980

    ... we were told to cease development of an expert system because it would erode the Captin's authority... and that, as they say, is history.

  20. Wiltshire

    Left hand down a bit, number one.

    Now press the Captain's Locker key thing.

    That one under the Tabby Cat key.

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