Before an autonomous machine kills the first human on the battlefield, the U.S. military must have an ethical framework for employing such technology.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has many peaceful uses, but its teaming in combat is a contentious issue among leading scientists including Stephen Hawking, who has called for a ban. Meanwhile, efforts continue to develop autonomous systems for delivering supplies in the form of automated supply trucks, tanker planes, and unmanned harbor sentry vessels. These uses can free sailors and soldiers from logistic and support missions, making more people available for combat roles.1 Eventually, however, AI will be employed on the battlefield, and we must begin preparing for that day now. The consequences of autonomous systems in combat take on new dimensions, in a future toward which the U.S. military is accelerating with each new technological advance.