Military applications of SI

From: Jimmy Wales (
Date: Mon Mar 05 2001 - 19:52:19 MST

I think it is premature to say anything much at all about what an SI
might do or be used for.

But there are clearly military applications for some fairly smart killing

Normal soldiers sent into battle are operating outside the environment for
which evolution designed the human body and brain. There are loud scary
noises, and a need to react really quickly. Humans make mistake. They
kill innocent bystanders. They misidentify targets. They freak out and run
away, or act indecisively.

There is little question that a smart killing machine could easily defeat
normal human soldiers. Intelligence is needed to move about in an unfamiliar
environment, and for identification of armed targets (versus innocent bystanders).
Prioritization of targets involves rapidly judging the intentions (and predicting
the actions) of various people and things in the combat arena.

Military hardware demands have been driven, in the wealthy West anyway, by increasing
needs for accuracy (think: laser guided bombs) and safety (for the soldiers controlling
them). In very few cases, other than outright genocide, is it desirable for military
combatants to mow down or arbitrarily blow up civilians. The United States, in our
war with Iraq, felt that it was somewhat important to pinpoint bombs on strictly
military targets as much as possible... but this was not always possible.

Smart military machines could enter a dangerous urban environment and systematically
and quickly take out armed targets with (relatively) minimal damage to civilians.

I'm not saying this is a good or bad thing, mind you, I'm just
pointing out that powerful AI has military applications even at the
"down and dirty" level of war. This leads me to think that the
military will be right there at the forefront of technology when an SI
becomes possible.

I should introduce myself. I'm Jimmy Wales, CEO of, but probably more
known to the geek community for, the free encyclopedia. You can
read an interview with me at Slashdot today.

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