By Staff Writer
Israel on Sunday unbaled the results of its ‘carmel’ project to ‘modernise’ its tank equipment.
Three companies, Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Systems (both State-owned and Elbit Systems), demonstrated military tanks that they said could be operated remotely and driven autonomously, with the sensors being retrogradely hittable to existent tanks.
These new technologies raise questions over privacy, real-time artificial intelligence-based decision-making, and the lack of internationally recognised laws on combat and war with autonomous weaponry.
Speaking to Radio Islam, Professor Noel Sharkey, Emeritus Professor at Sheffield University and an expert on machine learning and the ethics of robotic warfare, who has written over 150 articles on the topic and is currently working with the United Nations, pointed out that this was not the first time Israel sought to deploy such autonomously controlled combat equipment.
In 2010 Tel Aviv unbaled a Guardium Robotic Car, which could operate similarly, but which was then argued as being remotely controlled due to the backlash. Prof Sharkey also pointed out that such equipment was highly unlikely to cope with context and proportion, especially in the Gaza Strip, where combatants can not easily distinguish themselves from civilians.
“Well, in fact, it’s not just a matter of this person’s a soldier. This person’s a civilian; much of the people they’re fighting with are unknown uniform combatants. And that’s impossible to tell, which ones are civilians and which ones are combatants unless they fire a weapon at you. Computers really can’t apply the principle of proportionality that is deciding… what’s proportional, killing. That’s done by, sometimes very badly, but done by human combatant commanders. It’s what you call a qualitative decision; you can’t make it into an algorithm and put it on a computer.”
He pointed out that the wars of law were not advancing with the speed of new technologies and that he has, since 2014, been involved in a UN campaign to prohibit the use of ‘killer robots.
Professor Sharkey also alluded to the problem of possible hacking, “Any machine can be hacked. I can tell you that for sure, as a computer scientist, what we say in the business’s, every machine is secure until it’s been hacked.”
Prof Sharkey also pointed out that over 36 countries supported such a treaty, including South Africa, but these efforts were stalled by Israel, the USA, Russia, and Australia.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israel’s military exports were the eighth largest globally in 2020.