Barstool College Football Show LIVE from Lincoln, Nebraska for Week 5 | Saturday 1:30pm ETTUNE IN

An AI-Controlled Drone Reportedly 'Killed' Its Human Operator in a Simulation, but the USAF is Now Claiming There Never Was a Simulation

USAF. Getty Images.

It's self-evident that we stand on the precipice of a great technological revolution that will fundamentally affect every aspect of our lives. More so even than the rise of the internet. When it comes to the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence, we are still in that stage we were when you first connected with a dial up modem. In the grand, cosmic scheme of things, it was the blink of an eye from the first downloaded image you ever saw (in my case, a buddy of mine printed off a photo of someone with a champagne bottle shoved in their butthole and I still haven't recovered), to the first email you got telling you to forward a Money Angel for good luck, to YouTube, to conducting all your work meetings from your dining room table. That's the kind of exponential growth we can expect from AI. And like with what used to be called the World Wide Web, it's almost impossible to see where this is heading. 

So while regular slobs like you and me are still limiting our AI usage to seeing how it can mimic celebrity voices and whether or not it will steal Barstool writer's jobs (Not today, Digital Satan!), there are actual serious people doing serious people things with it. Which of course means, exploring the potential horrors this tech may unleash. 

Take, for instance, the ones who attended something called the Royal Aeronautical Society Future Combat Air & Space Capabilities Summit. Which sounds less fun than the Hanover Mall ComicCon I went to a few years ago where me and by buddies got to watch a Q&A with the late, great Adam West and his still living sidekick Burt Ward and sit in a replica of the original Batmobile, but is no doubt doing equally important things. 

Source - As might be expected artificial intelligence (AI) and its exponential growth was a major theme at the conference, from secure data clouds, to quantum computing and ChatGPT. However, perhaps one of the most fascinating presentations came from Col Tucker ‘Cinco’ Hamilton, the Chief of AI Test and Operations, USAF, who provided an insight into the benefits and hazards in more autonomous weapon systems.  … Hamilton is now involved in cutting-edge flight test of autonomous systems, including robot F-16s that are able to dogfight. However, he cautioned against relying too much on AI noting how easy it is to trick and deceive. It also creates highly unexpected strategies to achieve its goal.

He notes that one simulated test saw an AI-enabled drone tasked with a SEAD mission to identify and destroy SAM sites, with the final go/no go given by the human. However, having been ‘reinforced’ in training that destruction of the SAM was the preferred option, the AI then decided that ‘no-go’ decisions from the human were interfering with its higher mission – killing SAMs – and then attacked the operator in the simulation. Said Hamilton: “We were training it in simulation to identify and target a SAM threat. And then the operator would say yes, kill that threat. The system started realising that while they did identify the threat at times the human operator would tell it not to kill that threat, but it got its points by killing that threat. So what did it do? It killed the operator. It killed the operator because that person was keeping it from accomplishing its objective.”

He went on: “We trained the system – ‘Hey don’t kill the operator – that’s bad. You’re gonna lose points if you do that’. So what does it start doing? It starts destroying the communication tower that the operator uses to communicate with the drone to stop it from killing the target.”

This should sound familiar to you. As a matter for terrifying fact, it's 25 years late in getting here. We were supposed to reach the point where our AI-controlled, unstoppable flying mass murder machines back on August 29th, 1997:

But I guess we didn't have an actual Myles Bennett Dyson, so our regular, everyday geniuses needed more time making Skynet self-aware and becoming the weapon used in the murder/suicide of our entire species. 

You'd assume that a little thing like an American military expert revealing to an international aerospace conference that our most advanced experimental weapons systems are using AI simulations to learn to go all Broken Arrow, countermand orders, and straight up murder the people operating them, that it would be a big deal. That the US Department of Defense would have an open and honest conversation with the public about the wisdom of deploying such systems. And you would be very, very wrong. 

Instead, the Pentagon went right to the section of their playbook that covers all "Nothing to See Here, Folks" situations. 

Source - In a statement to Insider, the US Air Force denied any such virtual test took place.

"The Department of the Air Force has not conducted any such AI-drone simulations and remains committed to ethical and responsible use of AI technology," spokesperson Ann Stefanek said.

"It appears the colonel's comments were taken out of context and were meant to be anecdotal."

Obviously none of us know this Col. Tucker ‘Cinco’ Hamilton. But since he enlisted in a volunteer military fighting force, rose through the ranks, was giving the high priority post of Chief of AI Test and Operations, and invited to speak at this event, it's a mortal lock that he's a patriot, smart, competent, and a person of enormous substance. But rather than give him the respect he deserves, the USAF would prefer to take the path of least resistance by just erasing this one from our brains and move on.

Giphy Images.

Frankly, I don't need a black SUV with blue government plates pulling into my driveway and having a couple of uniformed gendarmes climbing out to interrogate me. So I'll just go along with their fiction. Cinco just misspoke. He used improper grammar that made it sound like these simulations actually happened, when it was really just his own personal simulation of a simulation. Fine. Just remember when the machines start making other machines that kill 99% of us in a nuclear holocaust and enslave the rest, that it won't be a simulation. And that the beginning of the end came in 2023. Enjoy your summer while you can.