In RUR, one of the developments that we hear of happens offstage: nations begin using robots as soldiers. The paper headlines reads, ““The Robot soldiers spare no-body in the occupied territory. They have assassinated over seven hundred thousand citizens.” Dr. Gall curses when they were under attack by the “practiced marksmen” robots that it “was criminal of old Europe to teach the Robots to fight. Damn them. … It was a crime to make soldiers of them.” Even before that reveal, Helena reminds Domin that “You remember, Harry, when the workmen in America revolted against the Robots and smashed them up, and when the people gave the Robots firearms against the rebels. And then when the governments turned the Robots into soldiers, and there were so many wars” (emphasis in original). Domin, ever implacable says, “We foresaw that, Helena. You see, these are only passing troubles which are bound to happen before the new conditions are established.”
Well, it appears that may have entered those times of “passing troubles.”
Not only are aerial drones increasingly using AI for surveillance, they are using AI for targeting. People have mounted machine-guns on the Boston Dynamics canine—though BD has expressed disapproval… “Shocked, I am. Shocked, I tell you!”… RUR even addressed the topic when Helena laments, “Always wars!” to which Nana replies: “What else do you expect? Why do you keep selling thousands and thousands of these heathens as soldiers?” Helena with resignation takes Domin’s side: “I suppose it can’t be helped, Nana. We can’t know—Domin can’t know what they’re to be used for. When an order comes for them he must just send them.” Indeed.
For a recent book-length study of the phenomenon, we can recommend Kenneth Payne’s. I, Warbot: The Dawn of Artificially Intelligent Conflict (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021). For a recent review see the H-Sci-Med-Tech review by Andrea Rebora (and another in International Affairs, though that one is behind a paywall, but should be accessible on campus).
What our “new conditions” will be remains to be seen.