The idea of “killer robots” has been punted in Sci-Fi movies for several decades. The idea is that, at some point in the future, robots will be able to control themselves and as a result, turn against humans and kill them. This idea extends beyond hardware robots.

In more recent decades, Sci-Fi movies have moved on to depict software-based AI (Artificial Intelligence) systems working together to control hardware robots and other electronics connected to the internet. In these scenarios, the AI’s aim is to attack humans.

Well, it appears the future we feared has arrived.

A report published in March 2021 by the United Nations (UN) Panel of Experts on Libya stated that STM Kargu-2 drone manufactured in Turkey was a “lethal autonomous weapon” which had “hunted down and remotely engaged” soldiers who were believed to have been loyal to Libya’s General Khalifa Haftar. Interestingly, using AI, the drones would later also operate as a “swarm” and persist with their attack until their targets were neutralized.

Here is the interesting part that differentiates these drones from other military drones. To quote from the UN report:

“The lethal autonomous weapons systems were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true 'fire, forget and find' capability.”

To put it simply, the drones were given targets to identify and attack and were left to use AI to carry out their mission without any further human intervention. This presents several ethical challenges and concerns given that we have previously observed how some algorithms and AI systems can be erratic but also how they can be biased.

Furthermore, we have to ask what margin of error these lethal autonomous weapons work with considering that any of their actions are irreversible should they attack a misidentified target or act in error.

Drone warfare has been a topical issue for some years as it allowed for one party (the one using drones) to have a skewed advantage and very minimal risk and skin-in-the-game versus their adversaries. Now, with fully autonomous military drones that can carry out instructions without any further human interaction, we have to be more concerned about the possible negative consequences of using such lethal AI-based technologies.

Top Stories

💰 Prosus, the global internet consumer company that was born out of South Africa’s Naspers unbundling its non-South African assets and investments, is set to acquire Stack Overflow, the global knowledge-sharing platform for developers and technologists, for $1,8 billion. Stack Overflow now serves more than 100 million people across the world every month. It has built a knowledge platform with a global reach and a highly engaged developer and technologist community over the last 13+ years. Prosus believes it can help Stack Overflow accelerate global growth as well as scale the company’s Teams product to enterprises globally. Link

🚁 An AI-powered “killer” drone was deployed in Libya and it possibly killed people without any human interference. To be specific, the military drone was set up to use AI to identify specific targets and it was left to go on its own, without any further human instructions or intervention to find the targets which it eventually attacked with an explosive payload on impact or when it was in close proximity with its targets. It is not clear whether the attack resulted in fatalities but it definitely does usher in a new era of warfare. Link

🏍️ Gokada, a Nigeria-based last-mile delivery, logistics, and transportation startup, has announced the launch of its new super app which now enables users to access its delivery services in one app. The bike-hailing and delivery company also announced that it had exceeded $100 million in annualized transaction value. Over and above growing its transaction values, Gokada also reports that it has grown its volume by over three times in the last six months. As such, the startup has said that it is looking to serve this growing market with expansions from its current base in Lagos, across multiple cities in Nigeria, including Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, and Ogun. Link

💻 On 7 March 2021, a gas pipeline in the East Coast of the USA was shut down due to a “cyberattack.” It was revealed that the attack was a ransomware attack that compromised and locked out the Colonial Pipeline networks’ systems. The pipeline network carries refined petroleum products such as gas and diesel for cars and trucks, jet fuel, heating oil for homes, and fuel for the military, decided to halt all pipeline operations after the attack. Highlighting the real-life impact of such attacks. the ransomware attack resulted in petrol shortages in America’s East Coast while petrol price increased by $0.06c per gallon as panic surged demand. Link

👩🏿‍💻 Every year, cybersecurity practitioners from across Africa gather to take stock of the ever-increasing cyber threat landscape at the annual World Cyber Security Summit - Africa Edition 2021. In its 10th edition now, The World Cyber Security Summit is the assembly point for Africa’s cyber defence cavalry. Over 30 CISO’s, IT, Cyber Security leaders from across the globe unpacked and shared insights, best practices around cyber intelligence strategies, critical infrastructure development, cybersecurity curriculum to build skills capacity. iAfrikan.com as a media partner was present to cover all the proceedings. Link

Thought of the Day

"We have to ask what margin of error these lethal autonomous weapons [drones] work with considering that their actions are irreversible should they attack a misidentified target or act in error." (Tweet this | Share on WhatsApp)

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