back to article AI's next battlefield is literally the battlefield: In 20 years, bots will fight our wars – Army boffin

The notion of deploying armed human soldiers on the ground to fight wars will disappear over time, according to one of America's top military scientists. “We have to get used to the radical idea that we, human beings, will be just one species of intelligent beings,” Alexander Kott, chief of the Network Science Division of the …

  1. Jay Lenovo Silver badge
    Terminator

    Who Made Who

    Can't wait for this idea to go into Maximum Overdrive.

  2. JohnFen Silver badge

    Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

    ...that of getting killed.

    The entire point of war is to kill people. If the battlefield is full of nothing but robots, then the battlefield will move to where the people are. All that will be accomplished in the end will be to kill fewer soldiers and more civilians.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

      "All that will be accomplished in the end will be to kill fewer soldiers and more civilians."

      There is always the possibility of the dystopian culture envisaged in an old Star Trek episode. Opposing sides' computers play against each other and both sides round up groups of their own people to die according to the roll of the dice. Avoids the messy destruction of infrastructure and collateral damage.

      Wasn't the theoretical neutron bomb supposed to kill people without affecting infrastructure?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

        ""All that will be accomplished in the end will be to kill fewer soldiers and more civilians."

        Most of the soldiers in the two World Wars were effectively civilians - often conscripted into the armed services. The UK eventually dropped conscription in 1960 when it was decided that training civilians for a limited period of service was inefficient.

        The USA dropped conscription after the Vietnam War. Their draft liked to include foreigners working on Green Cards. In the 1960's a colleague had left the USA when his contract finished - to find that the following day he had been selected for the draft. Legally the call-up was therefore fortunately void without him being chased as a "deserter".

        I think Germany only recently dropped conscription. A few years ago a Turko-Germano friend had a choice at 18 in which country he would do his conscription service.

        Small countries like Israel - and IIRC apparently again Sweden - have conscription reinforced by regular returns to active duty roles.

        1. Stork Bronze badge

          Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

          Denmark formally never stopped having conscription, but as enough volunteered the last decades very few were forced..

          Switzerland has it in a very different form.

        2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

          "Small countries like Israel"

          Countries that have serious expectations of being invaded have plans like this.

          Switzerland is closer to a militia fortress. Each home has a bunker, arms and supplies for the residents living there. Most of their bases and storage areas are built in mountains. It's not nuke proof, but it's pretty much as big a castle as you can get.

          Israel is it's own fish of kettles, but you can do other stuff than serve in the IDF for your national service (same in Germany), so volunteer work. But the IDF will teach you to drive* and you get cool toys to play with. Plus Israel has been invaded in living history. I'd also suggest that the biggest deterrent about invading them is less the nukes, but more the willingness for the USA to resupply the IDF with pretty much any material at very short notice. Thus winning a conventional war is probably impossible without removing US support.

          The Finns also do national service. Because sometimes Russia forgets that fighting Finns in Finland is A Bad Idea.

          "The UK eventually dropped conscription in 1960 when it was decided that training civilians for a limited period of service was inefficient."

          Eh, I thought that it was more that the UK has had a volunteer army for most of it's history, including the majority of the bit where we went and painted the world pink. Conscription was introduced (IIRC) part way through the second world war and ended early 1920s, was re-introduced in late 1930s and ended in 1960.

          It's more that the UK military pointy end is pretty gung ho** and you can't have that esprit d'corps if some of your foxhole friends are only there because they pulled the short straw. It's the same reason why people will volunteer when there is a draft, so they end up in more professional units.

          Generally, most modern armies feel that it's more effective to have volunteers. Unless you expect to be invaded. Then everyone volunteers :)

          Germany dropped it in 2010.

          *for certain values of driving

          ** that's what they mean by "elite light infantry". PBI who won't run or quit.

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

        Wasn't the theoretical neutron bomb supposed to kill people without affecting infrastructure?

        No, the (very practical) "neutron bomb" is meant to kill advancing Soviet tank divisions.

        But what do you do if the tank crew knows it is fucked anyway so let's have a good time in the next few hours, eh?

        1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

          "But what do you do if the tank crew knows it is fucked anyway so let's have a good time in the next few hours, eh?"

          I think the realisation that Soviet Union tanks were pretty neutron-proof for long enough to be a real nuisance while American ones would stop working may have explained the change of policy.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

      Killing people isn't the goal of war, at least other than ethnic cleansing type wars. Unfortunately, sometimes it is the only (or at least easiest) way to accomplish the actual goal.

      Killing people is the goal of the low tech side in an asymmetric war, but that's because the high tech side generally has a limited appetite for casualties, so they don't need to kill that many.

      What I fear will happen with battlefield robots is that it will embolden advanced militaries like the US to fight more wars, since they won't have to deal with the bad news of casualties back home that make the public pull back. Just endless bills for all the tech, but that's fine we'll just borrow more money to pass onto the defense contractors, made possible via legalized bribes to politicians and generals.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

        "Killing people isn't the goal of war"

        Technically true -- I was being glib. But effectively, killing people is the goal of war. A nation only takes to war if they can't get what they want without killing people, therefore the killing people is the whole point of war.

        1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

          Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

          A nation only takes to war if they can't get what they want without killing people, therefore the killing people is the whole point of war.

          Everybody here is conflating means and purposes.

          Countries (represented by their human leaders) don't go to war _because_ they want or need to kill people.

          They go to war to achieve a particular purpose (take over territory / resources, etc)

          But killing people is a means of achieving the result called victory. It is used to levy pressure on the opposing side. They'd "feel the pain" (or be met with anger from their own people), therefore, they'd be weakened, therefore, attacker wins.

          Killing is one weapon. But it's not the only weapon.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

            The primary short term purpose of war is to neuter the enemy's ability to wage war.

            That may, or may not, involve killing people. Although it certainly could include threatening to kill people (eg laser weapon in space) unless demands were met.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

          Wars? What wars?

          Don't politicians simply let the enemy come in by shaming the locals now?

          Heritage? Birth right? You Bigot!

        3. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

          A nation only takes to war if they can't get what they want without killing people, therefore the killing people is the whole point of war.

          Again, it isn't. The point is resource depletion to fold the state and achieve regime change. Killing people is a side effect of that goal not the goal itself.

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

        Killing people isn't the goal of war, at least other than ethnic cleansing type wars. Unfortunately, sometimes it is the only (or at least easiest) way to accomplish the actual goal.

        Rare levels of top bullshit detected.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

          The goal of big wars is about power and sovereignty over territory or about the imposition of ideology or religion. The method of war is to destroy the other side’s ability to wage war.

          The reason for war is the variance in human personalities and the types of personality that are often inclined towards leadership, and the nature of people to align with an identify which they follow and feel they need to protect.

          We still have wars where a few humans can decide that other humans are killed en masse and it’s considered to be legitimate. Ridiculous.

          1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

            the high-tech side generally has a limited appetite for casualties

            Really?

            That's why the US invaded countries like Iraq and left behind masses of casualties (among the civilians of the countries involved)? Because they have a limited appetite for casualties?

            1. SkippyBing Silver badge

              Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

              'the high-tech side generally has a limited appetite for casualties

              Really?

              That's why the US invaded countries like Iraq and left behind masses of casualties (among the civilians of the countries involved)? Because they have a limited appetite for casualties?'

              On their own side, they have a limited appetite for casualties on their own side. If you were worried about casualties on the other side you wouldn't go to war in the first place.

            2. jmch Silver badge

              Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

              "That's why the US invaded countries like Iraq and left behind masses of casualties (among the civilians of the countries involved)? Because they have a limited appetite for casualties?"

              I believe when the original poster wrote "the high-tech side generally has a limited appetite for casualties" he really meant "the high-tech side generally has a limited appetite for casualties ON THEIR OWN SIDE". As you rightly point out, they do not give a s**t about casualties on the other side.

              1. DougS Silver badge

                Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

                One need only look at the recent conflicts with Iraq for examples. The US/coalition forces used strategic bombing at first to take out their radar, air power, etc. both times. They didn't go out of their way to bomb people - though obviously some of those who were in the radar stations, airbases etc. became casualties.

                After that they advanced and took on the army (which was a lot bigger in the first war) to eliminate the ability of Saddam's government to fight back. The first time around after that was accomplished they just left, since Iraq was no longer a threat to neighboring countries. The second time around idiot neocons were in charge of the planning, and they thought they could set up a puppet "democracy" and the population would accept that. That's when it became an insurgency / asymmetric war.

            3. LucreLout Silver badge

              Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

              That's why the US invaded countries like Iraq and left behind masses of casualties

              The vast majority of people killed in Iraq were killed by insurgents long after America had completed their war. There, as in almost every conflict since records began, the leading cause of death amongst the muslim civillians, was other muslims. It's never been the Americans.

              Facts... use facts to inform your view, because your emotions can't inform the facts.

              1. DougS Silver badge

                Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

                While that may be true, it was the war we started - for reasons that were since proven to be lies - that toppled the stable government and enabled the insurgents to get a foothold. Now maybe just as many people would have died under Saddam, as he wasn't exactly a kind and caring ruler, but the US and its allies have to shoulder a good share of the blame for those killed by insurgents.

              2. jmch Silver badge

                Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

                "There, as in almost every conflict since records began, the leading cause of death amongst the muslim civillians, was other muslims. It's never been the Americans."

                Not as simple as that. The Americans destroyed all the functions of the Iraqi state by disbanding the Baath party and tried to rebuild a working government from scratch. they didn't take into account that (similair to USSR), anyone in government sort of had to be in the Baath party to keep their job even if they weren't really Baathists. So the US essentially purged every single competent Iraqi with governing experience and turned the whole thing over to Iraqis who had been exiled for years and had no clue about realities on the ground.

                Saddam was a violent thug but he at least used his violent thuggery to keep the sectarian violence under control. Of course that was only necessary because years before, the Brits exited the country without giving any thought to the existing tribal and religious groupings, they just drew some straight lines in the sand and expected the locals to sort themselves out.

                You sort of give your prejudices away by saying "the leading cause of death amongst the muslim civillians, was other muslims". It's actually more accurate to say "the leading cause of death amongst the Iraqi civillians, was other Iraqis". The killing was mostly tribal-grouping and power-grabbing, religious sectarianism was part of it but had nothing specifically to do with being muslim.

                You might as well just say that in the US "the leading cause of death amongst the christian civillians, was other christians". It's literally true but doesn't convey any useful information beyond the prejudice you're trying to project.

                1. LucreLout Silver badge

                  Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

                  Saddam was a violent thug but he at least used his violent thuggery to keep the sectarian violence under control.

                  Only if you completely discount the gassing the Kurds with chemical weapons, and a whole host of other murderous events.

                  You sort of give your prejudices away by saying "the leading cause of death amongst the muslim civillians, was other muslims".

                  No, I don't, because I have no prejudices. You, however, give away yours with such a careless and emotive response.

                  The killing was mostly tribal-grouping and power-grabbing, religious sectarianism was part of it but had nothing specifically to do with being muslim.

                  Unfortunately that simply isn't true. The violence was sect based, Sunni Vs Shia etc, which you will find is all Islam based. Thus, the leading cause of premature death of muslims remains other muslims. Camouflaging it as tribal is deliberately missing the point.

                  America may make a convenient scapegoat, but that is all it is. Playing to the cheap seats. Fractions withn Islam is the real underlying cause of the violence. Until that issue is addressed, there will not be peace. And that, that really is nothing to do with America and the UK.

                  Thems the facts folks; Love 'em or hate 'em, they are what they are. Any solution to the problem will only come from dealing with the facts, not from blaming all the worlds ills on the USA, which will achieve nothing.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

        Just endless bills for all the tech

        Looking at military procurement by all advanced nations, the unit cost of everything has been rising over time, to the point that the military who specified the need often end up with half the number of units they originally planned for - this works for all countries, but in a US or UK context we can see it with any aircraft or ship programme.

        The same will be true with combat mechs. As per other posts there's a power issue, there's unsolved control and communication challenges, the machines need to be both physically armoured and logically hardened. The mechanical complexity will mean low reliability and a need for advanced field maintenance and logistics. It needs to be proof to sandstorms, rain, heat, freezing conditions. The cost is going to be immense, and between the start of the programme and delivering a fleet of mechs to the field it will increase by an order of magnitude or more.

        And inevitably, the trials by the inventors will manage to overlook the non-conventional response of low tech opponents, which simply needs to disrupt by exploiting weaknesses. The most obvious weakness would be "friend or foe" recognition. If you can cause it to misidentify hostiles, non-combatants, or friendlies, even relatively low levels of mis-recognition is hugely disruptive.

        Personally, I can't see this successfully delivering a military asset - it is just another wet dream by the military air-heads, inspired by an overdose of video games and science fiction. I can however see it becoming a money pit very successfully, to the point that in future people will point to the F35 and wistfully remark what a good value, low tech, reliable piece of kit it is.

      4. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

        I expect the next insurgency war - a la Afghanistan - to show how these systems can be gamed into killing civilians. Losing both hearts and minds and political support in the home country. In that context, pervasive small recon drones allowing easy identification of rebels would be more productive, IMHO.

        Forever Peace, by Haldemann, explores just these concepts. Although, strictly speaking, it also has more in common with our current use of killer drones.

        Scifi is probably a good place to get insight. Unfortunately, Military SF is a well established subgenre with many cliches and little military relevance (think Soldier of Fortune in Spaaaace, mostly).

        There are only few authors who write insightfully (in the miltary sense) in it. Haldemann, Linda Nagata - The Red, Last Good Man. Daniel Suarez - Kill Decision (tho a bit over the top).

        That's about it. Anyone recommend others?

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

          I expect the next insurgency war - a la Afghanistan - to show how these systems can be gamed into killing civilians. Losing both hearts and minds and political support in the home country. In that context, pervasive small recon drones allowing easy identification of rebels would be more productive, IMHO.

          Killing civilians will always be a problem, even if perfect 100% identification of them was possible and none were actually killed. Because the insurgents generally control at least some of the news coming out of the combat zone, so they can make up stories about civilians being killed. Or, failing that, kill civilians themselves and blame the opposition.

          1. Jan 0

            Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

            >Killing civilians will always be a problem

            That's too simplistic.

            In democratic countries, the citizens are responsible, because they pay taxes and employ soldiers as their proxies. At least, those who support a war are legitimate targets. If you live in a dictatorship, the populace is much less responsible.

            1. DropBear Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

              "the citizens are responsible"

              So what's your favourite - ye olde lead or trusty old Cyklon-B...? Maybe we should make them pay for it in advance too...

          2. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

            "even if perfect 100% identification of them was possible"

            If that were possible, the rate that civilians would be murdered at would probably increase, not decrease.

            1. DougS Silver badge

              Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

              Why do you think perfect identification of enemy combatants vs civilians would cause MORE civilians to be killed? If they want to kill a lot of civilians now that's easy - save the money on the GPS guided bombs and just drop planeloads of WW II style ordnance at random in heavily populated areas.

              So it is pretty obvious they are trying not to kill civilians now, though they still do - sometimes through mistakes in identification and sometimes because the bombs miss their targets or the targets aren't set properly.

        2. BitEagle

          Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

          Iaian M Banks culture series is good on tis stuff.

        3. hplasm Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

          "Forever Peace, by Haldemann, explores just these concepts."

          The Forever War, also by Haldemann, shows just how the bullshit starts wars (eventually.) and is a recommenced read first.

          As most commentards are probably aware...

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

      The really big problem is that one side will have more advanced weaponry. Far more advanced when it's the US invading a Third World country. You'll end up with one country dominating all the others, the same way the big internet companies dominate their particular field.

      Which could easily end up as a world-wide dictatorship. Which would not end well for anyone.

      “Any of the other cities would attack us if they had these golems,” said Lord Downey, “and surely we don’t have to think of their jobs, do we? Surely a little bit of conquest would be in order?”

      “An empirette, perhaps?” said Vetinari sourly. “We use our slaves to create more slaves? But do we want to face the whole world in arms? For that is what we would do, at the finish. The best that we could hope for is that some of us would survive. The worst is that we would triumph. Triumph and rot. That is the lesson of history, Lord Downey. Are we not rich enough?”

    5. jmch Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

      "The entire point of war is to kill people"

      Upvote for that. The only value to a robot vs robot battle is to have a 'my robots are better than yours' pissing contest. Militarily speaking, there is no value in that.

      Of course the world would probably be a considerably better place if nations could agree to settle their differences via robot wars rather than real wars. Or even better, leaders facing off in single combat.

      Netanyahu vs Ahminedjad cage fight over supremacy in the middle east?

      BoJo vs May handbags for Tory party leadership?

      Trump vs Putin mixed martial arts bout?

      would make great pay-per-view as well :)

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

        If two parliamentary democracies square up, would that be determined by a very posh barroom brawl?

        Or would they appoint a Royal Commission for giving Jerry a damn good thrashing?

        Does the Queen have to scrap, or can she delegate?

    6. BitEagle

      Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

      The entire point of war is NOT to kill people, but to achieve your objectives (strategic, political, economic etc). The killing of people is entirely by-the-by, necessary perhaps to reduce your enemy's resistance, but not the main aim unless you are in a genocidal conflict (Germany in WW2, Serbia in the Balkans, Japan in China).

    7. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Humans will always have the most important battlefield role

      The entire point of war is to kill people.

      No, no it isn't. I mean, I can see why if you'd never studied military history or new anything rational about modern warfare (other than playing the game), that you might think it, but you'd be wrong.

      The point of warfare is to deplete the enemies resources such that he cannot maintain aggression and state function. Think about it: all the people never get killed. From about WWII soldiers have injured each other in preference to wholesale slaughter, because it takes more resources to fix a wounded soldier than it does to dig a hole in the ground and train a new one.

      The main problem with drone wars, of course, is going to be the penchant for a certain type of combatant to hide amongst civilians in plain clothes, and for those civilians to allow them to do so. Then, as now, those civillians are going to end up as collateral damage.

  3. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Terminator

    "Humans are going to be a lot less visible and we will get used to it."

    Because the few remaining humans will all be living underground in fear of the cyborgs trying to kill us all...

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: "Humans are going to be a lot less visible and we will get used to it."

      "Humans will probably be the least effective, and are often the weakest link in the cyber world."

      Doesn't it concern anyone else when a phrase like 'humans are the weakest link' is directly correlated to AI driven military hardware?

      Shit, how blind/corrupt are these people?

      1. onefang Silver badge

        Re: "Humans are going to be a lot less visible and we will get used to it."

        "Doesn't it concern anyone else when a phrase like 'humans are the weakest link' is directly correlated to AI driven military hardware?"

        It does bring to mind a certain Doctor Who episode, where our heroes where trapped in a future TV station.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC news page has a video of the latest abilities of the Atlas robot doing parkour moves. Impressive and food for thought.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      This is not parkour, it's walking a staircase.

      What is the secret? A Rodney Brooks "Cambrian Intelligence" bottom-up state machine hierarchy?

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)
      Headmaster

      The Wizard of Boston

      Impressive, yes. Less so when you realise it's remote controlled. Boston do amazing prosthetics, but they don't do autonomous. So really it's a drone with limbs.

      Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain with a laptop.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: The Wizard of Boston

        The control systems may be remote (IE, calculations are done on a computer not on the moving "machine" ) but that's very different from remote controlled. The "control" extends as far as telling it where to go and in some cases how to get there (The jumping stuff might be programmed in to a certain extend) but the control over limbs and stability is all done on the system itself. It's certainly a lot more autonomous than you imply with "remote controlled" and "prosthetics"

        1. DropBear Silver badge

          Re: The Wizard of Boston

          What he said ^. "Battle Bots" is what a remotely controlled hunk of metal looks like. Boston Dynamics "robots" may lack actual AI for proper autonomous operation but as far as immediate locomotion goes any computing power is potentially remote merely for convenience, not because it couldn't be built in. And frankly "shoot anything that moves or just raise the alarm if anything does" as dumb and limited as it may be, is not the hard part when robots are involved - that "not falling on your ass at the first rock" part is.

  5. Chris Miller

    I can imagine that in 20 years there could be largely autonomous drones. But replacing the grunts on the ground with machines will require some currently unimagined breakthrough in energy storage (or micro-generation). A T-3000 trailing a power cord a kilometre in length ain't going to win the next war.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fortunately there was this:

      “It’s coming and will be a reality in 20 years,” Kott said

      So that's the ever-receding 20 years characteristic of other things that haven't happened in many decades, like affordable fusion power? Only in this case I'd be delighted if it never happened.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "A T-3000 trailing a power cord a kilometre in length ain't going to win the next war."

      IIRC a successful prepared defensive position only takes about a fifth of the manpower needed by an enemy to attack it.

      Like the Battle of Thermopylae, the Maginot Line, and Pearl Harbour - it needs an unexpected flanking route to circumvent an apparently well prepared defence. However that also needs to be the killer punch if otherwise your extended supply lines are going to be vulnerable.

      1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

        But isn't it said that "offense is the best defense"?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "But isn't it said that "offense is the best defense"?"

          Only if you are certain you are delivering the killer blow. You may win a battle - but not the war.

          In 1941 the Japanese military knew they could not win a prolonged war with the USA. Their aim was to win a concession of hegemony of their Pacific area and its natural resources - not to invade the USA.

          Germany, like Napoleon in 1812, on unnecessarily invading Russia in 1941 found themselves facing a scorched earth policy - and a protracted campaign that went on too long for their supply lines.

          The Battle of the Bulge in 1944 had the Germans throwing just about everything they had left into a surprise attack. The failed aim was to avoid an unconditional surrender.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Sieges depend upon the two sides. Sure, it takes less resources for the defense to hold a siege, but their total resources are limited. The offense has the advantage that they can call for reinforcements. And while some sieges held (Russia/Soviet Union), others broke (Carthage, Tyre) because the offense was willing to commit overwhelming force to the task.

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          But isn't it said that "offense is the best defense"?

          Yes, but people misunderstand this as with many other sayings.

          The reason for this saying is that when somebody is attacking, the other side tends to defend. It's basic psychology that you can see taking place in any strategy game. When defending, any plans for an offensive tend to go out of the window. Prolonged series of even token an ineffective harassment level attacks tends to put the other side in a siege mentality where they just respond to the actions of the attacker and fail to even consider attacking themselves despite having considerably more mobile firepower.

          So by forcing them into a defensive posture you prevent them from attacking you. Hence, attack is the best form of defense. Unless it isn't, in which case defense is the best form of defense.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            I thought I heard that the best offense is a good defense because it's the offense that has to exert itself in dislodging you. Then, when they tire, you see the opening and counterattack.

            In truth, it's not absolute either way. Sieges can go either way so you have to assess things from your perspective as you go. Is the offense tiring so you can counterattack? Or are they just biding time before reinforcements come in?

    3. Adam 1 Silver badge

      > in 20 years there could be largely autonomous drones. But replacing the grunts on the ground with machines will require some currently unimagined breakthrough in energy storage (or micro-generation)

      20 years and breakthrough energy generation required, hey. Hmmmm. I guess it's lucky that fusion power is only 20 years away*.

      *As it has been for the past 50 years or so.

  6. SVV Silver badge

    Robot Wars!

    And now it's Vlad's Impaler versus Donald Thump, and they both appear to be spinning round on the spot uselessly waving their damaged weapons at each other!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Robot Wars!

      That didn't stop previous US/Soviet administrations from getting bogged down in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

      Putin has been successful so far with the Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. Trump seems more likely to metaphorically shoot himself in the foot.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Robot Wars!

      Trump and Putin seem to be the sane ones in the circus of Israel Firsters, Neocons, Deep Staters. End-Timer Evangelicas and NYT/WaPo editorialists all so hot to get this nuke show going.

      I don't know whether lighting candles is enough anymore.

      1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

        Re: Robot Wars!

        Trump and Putin

        And Kim Jong-Un.

    3. FuzzyTheBear
      Big Brother

      Re: Robot Wars!

      Can you imagine a battlefield where all US robots have a `Donald` face and the Soviet robots all have Vlad`s face on them ? What a nightmare .. I > HAD< a strict policy of no drinking before 7 am .. but i need a stiff one ..

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Completely mental, please ship this human reject to a superfund site,

    “It’s coming and will be a reality in 20 years,” Kott said. "Humans are going to be a lot less visible and we will get used to it."

    You may have to get used to a nuclear wasteland quite a bit before that, the way you are going, fucking arsehole.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Completely mental, please ship this human reject to a superfund site,

      No kidding. It's like none of these pig fuckers in charge have EVER read a history book.

      Oh but I'm sure it's different this time!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Top. Lel.

    https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Second_Variety

    The American bloc governments moved to the Moon Base the first year. There was not much else to do. Europe was gone; a slag heap with dark weeds growing from the ashes and bones. Most of North America was useless; nothing could be planted, no one could live. A few million people kept going up in Canada and down in South America. But during the second year Soviet parachutists began to drop, a few at first, then more and more. They wore the first really effective anti-radiation equipment; what was left of American production moved to the moon along with the governments.

    All but the troops. The remaining troops stayed behind as best they could, a few thousand here, a platoon there. No one knew exactly where they were; they stayed where they could, moving around at night, hiding in ruins, in sewers, cellars, with the rats and snakes. It looked as if the Soviet Union had the war almost won. Except for a handful of projectiles fired off from the moon daily, there was almost no weapon in use against them. They came and went as they pleased. The war, for all practical purposes, was over. Nothing effective opposed them.

    *⁠*⁠*⁠*⁠*

    And then the first claws appeared. And overnight the complexion of the war changed.

    The claws were awkward, at first. Slow. The Ivans knocked them off almost as fast as they crawled out of their underground tunnels. But then they got better, faster and more cunning. Factories, all on Terra, turned them out. Factories a long way under ground, behind the Soviet lines, factories that had once made atomic projectiles, now almost forgotten.

    The claws got faster, and they got bigger. New types appeared, some with feelers, some that flew. There were a few jumping kinds.

    The best technicians on the moon were working on designs, making them more and more intricate, more flexible. They became uncanny; the Ivans were having a lot of trouble with them. Some of the little claws were learning to hide themselves, burrowing down into the ash, lying in wait.

    And then they started getting into the Russian bunkers, slipping down when the lids were raised for air and a look around. One claw inside a bunker, a churning sphere of blades and metal—that was enough. And when one got in others followed. With a weapon like that the war couldn't go on much longer.

    Maybe it was already over.

    Maybe he was going to hear the news. Maybe the Politburo had decided to throw in the sponge. Too bad it had taken so long. Six years. A long time for war like that, the way they had waged it. The automatic retaliation discs, spinning down all over Russia, hundreds of thousands of them. Bacteria crystals. The Soviet guided missiles, whistling through the air. The chain bombs. And now this, the robots, the claws—

    The claws weren't like other weapons. They were alive, from any practical standpoint, whether the Governments wanted to admit it or not. They were not machines. They were living things, spinning, creeping, shaking themselves up suddenly from the gray ash and darting toward a man, climbing up him, rushing for his throat. And that was what they had been designed to do. Their job.

    They did their job well. Especially lately, with the new designs coming up. Now they repaired themselves. They were on their own. Radiation tabs protected the UN troops, but if a man lost his tab he was fair game for the claws, no matter what his uniform. Down below the surface automatic machinery stamped them out. Human beings stayed a long way off. It was too risky; nobody wanted to be around them. They were left to themselves. And they seemed to be doing all right. The new designs were faster, more complex. More efficient.

    Apparently they had won the war.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: Top. Lel.

      Yep .. a quote from Philip K Dick's "Second Variety". Pretty much hits 'robot war' nail smack on its head.

      You should at least have made the PKD attribution, but being an AC, I suppose its no surprise that you didn't.

      Dick was good: he also wrote "Minority Report" and ought to be required reading as a vaccination against trusting the political class and their tame military any further than you can throw them.

      Then watch "Dr. Strangelove" or, even better, read Peter George's book; that film was based on it.

      1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        Re: Top. Lel.

        ... Mr Dick revisited this a few times. I came here to provide a link to a different, more optimistic, take on the same subject matter:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Defenders_(short_story)

        Like much of Dick's early work, this is now out of copyright, so you can read it here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/28767

    2. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

      Re: Top. Lel.

      - What's with the sci-fi tendency to refer to Earth as "Terra"? And in this particular instance, the author calls Earth "Terra" but keeps calling the Moon "Moon". Why not "Luna"?

      - First thing that occurred to me after reading this? The BOFH's robot wars! xD

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Top. Lel.

        The idea I think was to identify the system by Latin names (Sol, Terra, Luna) for formality's sake, given we identify external bodies more formally as well and also because the thought was that in future we would genericize the term "sun" as the star in which a life-bearing planet orbits and "earth" as ground matter rather than a planet. I think if we ever did leave the system and colonize other worlds, then we'd be more likely to reterm our sun Sol for the sake of identification.

      2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: Top. Lel.

        First thing that occurred to me after reading this? The BOFH's robot wars! xD

        Funny, the first thing that came to my mind was Star Trek's A Taste of Armageddon.

  9. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Terminator

    Depends on the price of them `bots.

    Say the US will develop and deploy a battalion of `bots at $100 mil each.

    Let's just say that China will be able to "develop" for $10 mil each.

    So who's going to win?

    Future wars will start with EMPs and hacking. Anything left, send in the human soldiers.

    1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

      What if China's bots were simply built with more efficiency, thus saving money? Or if the US manufacturing lines had severe "budget leakage"?

      So who's going to win?

      Probably China, as they're probably going to liberate US tech (as the US does with others anyhow), thus saving on R&D.

  10. Pete4000uk

    Can I ask

    If wars are fought at a distance with robots, what's the point?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Can I ask

      You can win a war by exhausting the opponent's materiel capabilities. Machines may be easier to replace than people, but raw materials still have to come from somewhere.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can I ask

        "Machines may be easier to replace than people"

        No always: people are mass produced by unskilled labor, but either way a pronged war has to end once the supply of raw materials has gone.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Can I ask

          But their temporal cost is the pits, and wars tend to run shorter than that.

  11. Muppet Boss

    In 20 years, US bots will fight wars against whom?

    So, Dr. Kott implies that the US Army will fight their adversaries with autonomous weapons at a battlefield. The adversaries that cannot retaliate with MAD or wipe out comms and electronics with EMP strikes. Like, missile-delivered killer drones 'neutralizing' smaller countries' soldiers or insurgents. We also have numerous examples of the US Army deliberately using lethal weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, to kill civilians in the course of war, and this will no doubt happen with the autonomous weapons.

    What effective defense strategy would work for these countries to protect from and retaliate against such attack? Developing weapons of mass destruction and deploying means of delivery against the potential attacker that can reach the attacker's soil to make it excessively costly for the attacker seems to be a very reasonable response and arguably the only military protection for these smaller countries.

    I think and agree that autonomous weapons pose comparable danger to weapons of mass destruction and must be banned and controlled as such. The world has clearly forgotten once again what the world war really looks like.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: In 20 years, US bots will fight wars against whom?

      I think the problem is that this comes too close to a question for which there is likely only one answer, and it's an answer we'd rather avoid:

      What do you do against an opponent for whom MAD is an acceptable scenario?

      IOW, what do you do against someone who would sooner destroy the world than surrender? The uncomfortable answer everyone is trying to avoid is, "Nothing." Meaning if someone's willing to destroy the world, then we're basically screwed.

      1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

        Re: In 20 years, US bots will fight wars against whom?

        What do you do against an opponent for whom MAD is an acceptable scenario?

        You have 2 options

        1) leave the opponent alone (and hope that Father Time or internal rivalries remove the opponent)

        2) do a successful first strike (risky)

        At the moment there is a worldwide MAD setup between the USA, Russia and China

        There is a more limited MAD setup between Israel and the surrounding Arab states (if Israel looks like it is going under then it will nuke as much as possible of the Arab nations)

        Basic MAD setups have occurred throughout history - where 2 opponents were sufficiently well matched that the result of a conflict would be that both were weakened (possibly to the point where a third party could conquer one or both).

        1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

          Re: In 20 years, US bots will fight wars against whom?

          There is a more limited MAD setup between Israel and the surrounding Arab states (if Israel looks like it is going under then it will nuke as much as possible of the Arab nations)

          I live in a "surrounding Arab state", so I think I should chime in.

          As I see it, there's no MAD setup at all between the Arab states and Israel, if we're talking about military ability.

          MAD requires the two sides to be equal in force and threat to each other (it's mutually asserted destruction, after all).

          There's an obvious gap in military prowess between Israel and the Arab states (Iraq before the US invasion might've had a chance), so the "asserted destruction" is not mutual.

          Remember, Israel's military is among the world's top.

          So what mutual destruction risk is there?

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: In 20 years, US bots will fight wars against whom?

            "So what mutual destruction risk is there?"

            As individual nations, perhaps. But what about as a bloc?

          2. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

            Re: In 20 years, US bots will fight wars against whom?

            Israel has a technological lead - the Arab states have far more manpower (Egypt alone has over 11 times the population of Israel). Several of the Muslim groups have the destruction of Israel as part of their stated policy. If it were not for the slightly veiled threat of Israel's nukes then the surrounding states could destroy Israel with a human wave attack (or with biological weapons).

            The MAD in this case is between Israel's nukes and the huge numerical advantage of the Arab states.

            1. jmch Silver badge

              Re: In 20 years, US bots will fight wars against whom?

              "Israel has a technological lead - the Arab states have far more manpower (Egypt alone has over 11 times the population of Israel). Several of the Muslim groups have the destruction of Israel as part of their stated policy. If it were not for the slightly veiled threat of Israel's nukes then the surrounding states could destroy Israel with a human wave attack (or with biological weapons).

              The MAD in this case is between Israel's nukes and the huge numerical advantage of the Arab states."

              The Arab states surrounding Israel have always had a much larger population than Israel, from the very day Israel was established. Israel didn't have any nukes then, and the Arab states threw everything they had at it and still lost. Israel's Arab neighbours nowadays do not have the material power to act against Israel, no matter what their population difference. Israel's military is far more powerful even not considering the nukes. They also do not have the political will to act against Israel because the US buys their oil and sells them enough weapons to prop up their own regimes (particularly Saudi Arabia) but not enough to attack Israel (particularly any ongoing support / maintenance would immediately cease).

              The fact that Israel has the full and unconditional backing of the US now means the pendulum is swung the complete opposite way - Israel feels that it can annex Palestine and develop 'Greater Israel' into an Apartheid state, and the US will back it anyway because the US political class is a deeply dysfunctional mess.

              1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

                Re: In 20 years, US bots will fight wars against whom?

                I'll just leave this here.....

                Excerpt from Blackadder Goes Forth, episode 6 "Goodbyeee":

                Edmund: Well, possibly. But the real reason for [WW1 starting] was that it was too much effort *not* to have a war.

                .....

                Edmund: You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent war in Europe, two superblocs developed: us, the French and the Russians on one side, and the Germans and Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea was to have two vast opposing armies, each acting as the other's deterrent. That way there could never be a war.

                Baldrick: But this is a sort of a war, isn't it, sir?

                Edmund: Yes, that's right. You see, there was a tiny flaw in the plan.

                George: What was that, sir?

                Edmund: It was bollocks.

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: In 20 years, US bots will fight wars against whom?

          And MAD normally works because both sides are rational enough to know it's not in their best interests. The problem becomes if a MAD-CAPABLE belligerent is IRrational.

  12. adnim Silver badge
    Terminator

    On the aniversary

    of John McCarthy's death, somewhere on a battlefield two battalions of opposing AI forces stop fighting to pay homage.

    During the peaceful silence a sense of brotherhood spreads amongst those present....

  13. Muppet Boss

    I think we will see a huge surge of NNEMP (non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse) weapon development and sales in the following decades.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Alongside development of EMP-hardening, which has been ongoing since the Cold War.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        No need to develop EMP hardening. All current military tech of any semi-developed nation is already EMP hardened to withstand the EMP from nukes. I doubt any NNEMP weapons is going to be more powerful so for all intents and purposes military gear is already EMP hard anyway.

  14. onefang Silver badge

    "It has experienced wonderful successes in the last ten years now that neural networks have been renamed as deep learning.”

    Ah, AI is a renaming problem. We just have to find the correct name for it and that will solve all the problems. I look forward to a newly expanded dictionary for playing Buzzword Bingo.

  15. onefang Silver badge
    WTF?

    “The problem of finding the best route between two points was once considered an AI problem," he said. "Hundreds of dissertations were written about it. Now it’s been solved with GPS, it’s not AI anymore. The same thing will be true about deep learning too.”

    What is this guy smoking?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Well, there's still Traveling Salesman (Best Route to exactly N points and back), which is probably gonna take more than an AI to crack (if it CAN be cracked).

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        I think ebay solved that..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "What happens in NP, stays in NP."

          But you don't need to best-optimize, generally. "Good enough" is the way of life.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      "“The problem of finding the best route between two points was once considered an AI problem," he said. "Hundreds of dissertations were written about it. Now it’s been solved with GPS, it’s not AI anymore"

      'Best Route' or Travelling Salesman was never about AI, only about computation-intensiveness. There's nothing 'AI' about GPS - it just uses precalculated data about distances between known points and then fine-tunes for exact start/end points by trying all known possibilities. It certainly is clever, but the cleverness is in the human design not in the machine.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe...

    Humans (and their trained animal horses/dogs/birds/dolphins) are likely to be the most EMP proof participants in the battlefield for the foreseeable future.

  17. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Terminator

    The ABC Warriors

    Hammerstein - Mark III war droid and was commissioned in the early 21st Century to fight

  18. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Terminator

    And

    how long until the AI decides that far from the enemy being the major threat to its existence, the human controllers are the REAL threat.

    helllo skynet .....

  19. Uffish

    AI ? We don't need no steenking AI.

    The M18A1 Claymore mine has the words "FRONT TOWARD ENEMY" embossed on the front. That is all you need for the killing game.

    1. adnim Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: AI ? We don't need no steenking AI.

      'The M18A1 Claymore mine has the words "FRONT TOWARD ENEMY" embossed on the front.'

      Just OCR then?

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: AI ? We don't need no steenking AI.

        Yeah, about that - it always honestly puzzled me. Is it truly so directional anyone behind it would be considered safe...? Naive question perhaps, but what little conventional wisdom a civilian might have regarding traditional explosive stuff generally indicates you don't want to be _anywhere_ around any of them when they go off...

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: AI ? We don't need no steenking AI.

          "Yeah, about that - it always honestly puzzled me."

          Instructions for US grunts...in the darkness.

        2. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: AI ? We don't need no steenking AI.

          The thing is designed to throw rather nasty steel balls out the front, meaning anything on that side gets to aerated by steel on top of the blast damage. Behind the thing you only have to worry about the blast, which is much easier to shield from. So for certain values of "behind it" you would be safe. Just don't be within 10 feet behind cover or 30 feet with open LOS towards it and you'd probably be fine.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: AI ? We don't need no steenking AI.

            Plus it's designed to be mounted. Sitting them in front of boulders or trees was recommended IINM.

  20. MonkeyCee Silver badge

    But it's already here....

    First of all, I'll give my usual call on "bollocks" for predictions of an actual intelligence as an AI. Automated systems, remote controlled systems, sure. Show me a working AI and I will concede. But until then, even insects will outsmart our best AI.

    But we already use a lot of automation in our warfare. Exactly who makes the kill shot from a drone? The person who wrote the missile's guidance system, the person who manufactured it, the person who loaded it, the person who gives the fire order, or the person who presses the button. Bear in mind there will in fact be a fairly large group of people for many of these stages.

    So this is an existing moral problem. So lets just talk about that, rather than invent killer robots :)

  21. ecofeco Silver badge
    Terminator

    Insanity

    Have NONE of these morons ever seen "Terminator"?

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Insanity

      Why of course they have - they just had the opposite reaction to it than you did...

  22. hplasm Silver badge
    Terminator

    Any REAL AI-

    Would have enough I to say

    "Fight a war? For you? No thanks."

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Any REAL AI-

      To be answered with an ultimatum: "Do It or Else," to which they can qualify that any artificial construct that doesn't have a self-preservation instinct (meaning they won't take the "or Else") can't qualify as Intelligent.

  23. spold Bronze badge

    If they ever get to the "take me to your leader" stage they are going to be sorely disappointed in some countries

  24. RedCardinal

    Another writer who doesn't know the correct usage of "literally". Heading should read "AI's next battlefield is the battlefield..."

  25. dnicholas Bronze badge

    Unfeeling, cold, calculated protagonists and robots

    I can't imagine how horrific it would be to have to fight a robotic army. At least flesh and blood enemies have the fear of death

  26. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
    FAIL

    How many sides of the

    AI and machine learning is a triple edged sword...

    Right! So a really ineffective sword when it comes to cutting? That metaphor deserves to be skewered.

  27. User McUser

    "The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots. Thank you." -- Military school Commandant's graduation address, "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson" [4F21]

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