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“Wallops island—a remote, marshy spit of land along the eastern shore of Virginia, near a famed national refuge for horses—is mostly known as a launch site for government and private rockets. But it also makes for a perfect, quiet spot to test a revolutionary weapons technology.
If a fishing vessel had steamed past the area last October, the crew might have glimpsed half a dozen or so 35-foot-long inflatable boats darting through the shallows, and thought little of it. But if crew members had looked closer, they would have seen that no one was aboard: The engine throttle levers were shifting up and down as if controlled by ghosts. The boats were using high-tech gear to sense their surroundings, communicate with one another, and automatically position themselves so, in theory, .50-caliber machine guns that can be strapped to their bows could fire a steady stream of bullets to protect troops landing on a beach.
The secretive effort—part of a Marine Corps program called Sea Mob—was meant to demonstrate that vessels equipped with cutting-edge technology could soon undertake lethal assaults without a direct human hand at the helm. It was successful: Sources familiar with the test described it as a major milestone in the development of a new wave of artificially intelligent weapons systems soon to make their way to the battlefield.
Lethal, largely autonomous weaponry isn’t entirely new: A handful of such systems have been deployed for decades, though only in limited, defensive roles, such as shooting down missiles hurtling toward ships. But with the development of AI-infused systems, the military is now on the verge of fielding machines capable of going on the offensive, picking out targets and taking lethal action without direct human input.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"Is the American foreign-policy community wise enough, disciplined enough, and knowledgeable enough about Asia to build an effective coalition to balance a rising China? The example of Myanmar is a worrying one. Myanmar received extraordinary..."
"Last Wednesday, the Trump administration announced its plan to roll back efficiency standards for lightbulbs. This would halt the slow-moving process of phasing out inefficient incandescent and halogen lightbulbs in favor of LEDs, through..."
"Most lovers of science fiction are quick to tell you that there's a "time-honored" (pun intended) way to build a time machine - somehow get a wormhole and use it as a bridge to travel through time. (It's even worked in movies such as Thor and..."
"The Sugerman family’s trip to Southern Utah this past May involved a treacherous drive. There were hairpin turns; the three adult children needed to move boulders to clear a path for the car. “We were on these roads which were barely roads..."
"One of the unloveliest ideas in economics goes by the name “value of a statistical life” — VSL for short. In the U.S. government, the current value of a human life is about $10 million. That means that if a highway safety regulation would save..."
"My friend Molly had her first baby about a month ago. She watched Friends in the hospital during labor. Then she took her baby home, where she watched more Friends—the entire last five seasons, to be exact. I was baffled. Not because I thought..."
"For the first time in its history, Israel is facing a real possibility of government chaos and a deep and unprecedented constitutional crisis. The person behind this crisis is the head of government himself, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu...."
"Major corporations get caught behaving badly … a lot. And so far, the main solution we’ve come up with is fining them — the Federal Trade Commission hit Facebook with a $5 billion fine this summer, an amount that, while large, will barely make a..."