Elon Musk Nightmare Looms: Army Seeks "Internet-Of-Battlefield Things" With "Self-Aware" Bot Swarms

After warning that "AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization," the appearance of fully-automated 'robot-killers' brought Elon Musk's apocalyptic vision even close.

As he noted, "until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal," and while that is unlikely in the streets of America (for now), Defense One's Patrick Turner writes that after nearly two decades of war against technologically unsophisticated foes, the Army Research Lab is reorienting to counter China and Russia - with distributed bot-swarms and an internet-of-battlefield things...

The Army Research Lab is turning more of its attention to fighting land wars against far more technologically sophisticated adversaries than it has in the past several decades. In the coming months, the Lab will fund new programs related to highly (but not fully) autonomous drones and robots that can withstand adversary electronic warfare operations. The Lab will also fund new efforts to develop battlefield communications and sensing networks that perform well against foes with advanced electronic warfare capabilities, according to Philip Perconti, who became the director of the Lab in June.

After nearly two decades of war against determined but technologically unsophisticated foes in the Middle East, U.S. Army tech has, in some ways, fallen behind that of competing states, according to a May report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies on U.S. Army modernization.

For instance, Russia has invested heavily in anti-access / area denial technologies meant to keep U.S. forces out of certain areas.

“There are regions in Donbass where no electromagnetic communications—including radio, cell phone, and television—work,” says the CSIS report.


“Electronic warfare is the single largest killer of Ukrainian systems by jamming either the controller or GPS signals.”

In the coming months, the Army Research Lab will set forth on new research programs to counter these A2/AD systems. One thrust will be equipping drones and other autonomous systems with bigger brains and better networking so that they can function even when an enemy jams their ability to radio back to a human controller for direction. That’s the idea behind the Distributed and Collaborative Intelligent Systems and Technology program, which will experiment with robots packed with much more onboard processing.

“Autonomy will play a big role” in future Army concepts of operation, Perconti said. “And it has to be able to function within this contested environment…That’s what ARL is thinking about. More than one network, working together, with as much processing as possible on the node.”

The amount of onboard processing should be sufficient to allow the drone to be highly independent. It would still call home (Perconti, like his peers across the Pentagon, sees no possibility that the U.S. military would allow a robots to kill without a human saying yes.) But the dialogue between the drone and the operator would much more closely resemble an exchange between a commander and soldier, and less a human steering a thing.

Perconti said future Army drones and robots of all types should “be able to function to provide not raw data but information, and, in a sense, decisions about what needs to happen on the battlefield. When you don’t have bandwidth, when you’re under cyber attack, when you’re being jammed. That’s the problem we’re trying to address.”

The Lab will tackle questions such as: when can autonomous systems come together to deliver effects and then disperse? How do you integrate autonomous robots into a war-fighting command?

A second program called the Internet of Battlefield Things seeks to put to military use  “the research that’s going on in the commercial space” on distributed sensors and Internet-connected devices.

The CSIS report says that United States already enjoys asymmetrical advantage over adversaries like China and Russia in the way it deploys  sensors and networks to maintain a view of the battlefield, or situational awareness. But that’s also part of the problem: “Recognizing this threat, the Russians have made targeting and countering U.S. situational awareness systems a high priority of its battlefield [electronic warfare] activities, necessitating co-united U.S. investment to address and stay ahead of Russian counters,” the report says.

The challenge for the U.S. Army now is to rethink battlefield sensor networks in a way that acknowledges that rapidly advancing commercial capabilities are eroding U.S. advantage. The U.S. needs an “understanding of the knowledge gaps are, the voids,” says Perconti.

What exactly is an Internet of Battlefield Things? The program announcement describes it as a group of largely autonomous sensors or even robotic parts (actuators) and robots “capable of adapting to acquire and analyze data necessary to predict behaviors/activities, and effectuate the physical environment; self-aware, continuously learning, autonomous, and autonomic, where the things interact with networks, humans, and the environment.”

Perconti said he expects ARL to announce contract awards for both programs later this year, allowing them to begin in earnest in fiscal year 2018.

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Fully-automated, self-directed battlefield drones? What could possibly go wrong? Especially with Russia deploying Terminator 2-style fighting vehicles...


GUS100CORRINA Wed, 07/19/2017 - 11:43 Permalink

Musk Nightmare Looms: US Army Seeks "Internet-Of-Battlefield Things" With Distributed "Self-Aware" Bot SwarmsMy response: THE TERMINATOR ... AI and machines running wild with HUMANS as primary targets.

hedgeless_horseman Joe Davola Wed, 07/19/2017 - 12:17 Permalink


...after nearly two decades of [losing the Afghanistan] war against technologically unsophisticated foes, the Army Research Lab is reorienting to counter China and Russia - with distributed bot-swarms and an internet-of-battlefield things...

So, if we can't beat them, change enemies? http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-06-20/seems-vietnam-veterans-couldnt…

I was told that The United States of America went to war in Afghanistan, now the longest war in American history, because the Afghanis were harboring a Saudi Arabian, Osama Bin Ladin, who was, allegedly, the masterminded behind the 15 other Saudi Arabians, 2 United Arab Emirates citizens, 1 Egyptian, and 1 Lebanese that allegedly perpetrated 9-11.  The US government's rhetoric was that if we didn't hunt down and kill Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, then the Muslims would plan and execute other terrorist attacks on the USA.  So, we trained our young men to hate and kill Muslims. ... On average, 22 American soldiers commit suicide every day, more than are dying fighting in the war. If you are a veteran or active duty US military, I invite you to skip to items 15-18 on my Revolutionary Call to Arms15.  Research your two senators and one congressman at https://www.opensecrets.org/ Make a list of their 10 biggest donors, and send the list to your "representative" in an email or letter.16.  Read War is a Racket, by Major General Smedley D. Butler.17.  Read On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.18.  Watch the online video of the TED Talk, A radical experiment in empathy, by Sam Richards.

In reply to by Joe Davola

JuliaS hedgeless_horseman Wed, 07/19/2017 - 12:20 Permalink

In a war, the side that loses is the one that runs out capital ahead of opposition. Middle East may not be producing the kill counts, but in terms of spending efficiency, they're way ahead of us... especially considering tha tthe funds we funnel into the sandbox end up purchasing the very weapons that are pointed against us.The main reason why we can't win those particular wars is because we're fighting ourselves. We can't even get the record straight as to which side we're on.

In reply to by hedgeless_horseman

hedgeless_horseman JuliaS Wed, 07/19/2017 - 12:42 Permalink


In a war, the side that loses is the one that runs out capital ahead of opposition. 

Or, consider an entirely different possibility...

8.  Read, 1984, by George Orwell.

The Purpose of War According to George Orwell (1984)  The primary aim of modern warfare is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society. From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy, and disease could be eliminated within a few generations. And in fact, without being used for any such purpose, but by a sort of automatic process — by producing wealth which it was sometimes impossible not to distribute — the machine did raise the living standards of the average humand being very greatly over a period of about fifty years at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction — indeed, in some sense was the destruction — of a hierarchical society. In a world in which everyone worked short hours, had enough to eat, lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator, and possessed a motor-car or even an aeroplane, the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance. https://akamat.wordpress.com/2007/07/31/the-purpose-of-war-according-to…

 War is a racket!!!

In reply to by JuliaS

logicalman hedgeless_horseman Wed, 07/19/2017 - 13:19 Permalink

THE FUNCTION OF WASTE IN MODERN TOTALITARIANISMThe production of weapons of mass destruction has always been associated with economic "waste." The term is pejorative, since it implies a failure of function. But no human activity can properly be considered wasteful if it achieves its contextual objective.... In the case of military "waste," there is indeed a larger social utility.... In advanced modern democratic societies, the war system ... has served as the last great safeguard against the elimination of necessary social classes. As economic productivity increases to a level further and further above that of minimum subsistence, it becomes more and more difficult for a society to maintain distribution patterns insuring the existence of "hewers of wood and drawers of water."... The arbitrary nature of war expenditures and of other military activities make them ideally suited to control these essential class relationships.... The continuance of the war system must be assured, if for no other reason, among others, than to preserve whatever quality and degree of poverty a society requires as an incentive, as well as to maintain the stability of its internal organization of power. The Creature from Jeckyll Island

In reply to by hedgeless_horseman

Mena Arkansas Wed, 07/19/2017 - 11:45 Permalink

Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.Revelation 9:3

Grandad Grumps Wed, 07/19/2017 - 11:49 Permalink

I suppose that after automating all global financial market pricing, how hard can a battlefield be? It is probably very easy until the opponent (I won't use the word "enemy", because we have none) learn how to take out your units.

Too-Big-to-Bail (not verified) Wed, 07/19/2017 - 11:49 Permalink

Maybe Muck will be more optimistic on these weapons if they incorporate solar panels to charge their batteries

Squid Viscous Wed, 07/19/2017 - 11:55 Permalink

good, turn them loose on the jews.fueled by vodka and cigarettes like Sobibor!oh wait they don't even need that... just some WD-40 every 40-50,000 rounds.should keep them humming.

MsCreant Wed, 07/19/2017 - 11:53 Permalink

In case we had not, yet, said goodbye properly to our freedom, now it is up in our faces. And still, most will not see. Putin-nanny! Russia! Muh Ennemah!I hope these things turn and turn terribly on their masters. Hope they don't have tiny little reactors in them that make them run and repair themselves forever. Nah. They would not do that.

cougar_w Bastiat Wed, 07/19/2017 - 13:39 Permalink

It wouldn't be too hard to create a distributed, hack-proof battlefield comms system. A large team can't do it (the "software crisis" has been with us since the 60's) but a small team with a limited charter to just focus on comms could certainly do it. Getting it deployed might be hard (government inertia being what it is) and of course any such system would immediately be classified as a munition and subject to secrecy. But it could be built.

In reply to by Bastiat

Rick Cerone Wed, 07/19/2017 - 13:15 Permalink

Tom Cruise will save us. Take them out with F-35's, Tom.TOP GUN it with F-35's!!!Cruise may be forced to CGI a F-35 that actually works for the new movie.

gmak Wed, 07/19/2017 - 11:55 Permalink

Looking for another handout to fund AI Research?  Don't look now but California is about to up the ante in "green" car subsidies. Call it Mush bailout, if you will. the madness never ends until someone gets a stick in the eye.

Vimes gmak Wed, 07/19/2017 - 13:41 Permalink

Green cars..  This shit is on fire! Toyota, Mercedes, VW, BMW, Volvo are all stepping on the gas to go full electric. We are bombarded with new requests . ( So are the Chinese). If the U.S. doesn't act fast, it will have to start banning foreign cars and production to protect their market. Especially after the manufacturers got a financial kick in the cojones for their diesel pranks.

In reply to by gmak

Vimes DjangoCat Wed, 07/19/2017 - 15:18 Permalink

They will tax to the max, for sure! Governments can and will tax everything with a wheel on it. Countries  (EU and China) who have little or no real oil deposits, seem to be pushing for real. If I wasn't in the automotive industry and watched this unfold before my own eyes... hell  can't blame people for not believing me.Seems like all is on hybrid technology and full electric.

In reply to by DjangoCat