Robot War Number One
~ we need an exit ramp from wars of attrition ~
TL;DR — Ukraine will soon be the testing-ground for Putin’s future chess pieces: robotic patrol & surveillance. Analysts have been repeating the Eisenhower-era logic that “Putin doesn’t have enough *troops* to hold ALL of the Ukraine.” He doesn’t need troops — he has drones and Chinese surveillance AI. The invasion of Ukraine, with its own value to Putin, is simultaneously his dry-run data-collection of robotic systems, before *exporting* the kit to dictators, globally. This is Robot War #1.
Until They Can’t Make Robots
Nuclear War amongst self-interested and rational foes leads to avoidance. No one wants to risk apocalypse. Yet, when we transition to robotic warfare, there is a distinctly new calculus: “Shoot first, and keep shooting until they can’t make robots.” Why?
Robots (especially those made in automated factories, with raw materials trucked about by autonomous mining vehicles, etc.) gain their advantages from being more *numerous* than their foes; no one is fielding a robot in mixed martial arts fighting, because they are obviously inferior. But they’re cheap!
So, if it’s a numbers-game, we have a problem: two countries with *equal* robot-production capacity will end-up chewing-through each other’s robots at roughly an equal rate (almost all robots are frail, on both sides)… UNLESS one of those countries *started* with many many more robots. Their superior numbers gives them battlefield leverage; they play on easy-mode.
How do you guarantee that you *start* the fight with more robots? You hit first, inflicting devastation to industrial capacity. Then, your superior numbers allow you to continually squash your opposition — as each of their robots exits the factory to go on patrol, your robots shoot it from all angles. Your foes have *equal* productive capacity, yet their inferior *starting* numbers guarantees their eventual collapse.
Railroad to Desolation
A great deal of concern is brewing (and rightly!) surrounding the existential risk of Artificial General Intelligence; I am with you, as my articles attempting to find solutions attest! Yet, there is a HIGHER probability risk, which is also NEARER to happening: Robots that Obey Evil Humans.
I keep looking for a way to avoid it — dictators leaning more on AI surveillance and robotics to be the brutality that even their men would shirk. I haven’t found one. It seems like we are on rails, barreling toward a war of attrition between robot-manufacturers. (I hope to hear your thoughts!)
The risk of Robot War isn’t so much the combat itself — it’s that we will be distracted and hobbled, unable to address all our other calamities unfolding. Case-in-Point: tens of millions of people are usually fed by the grain grown in Ukraine — both 42 Million Ukrainians, and tens of millions receiving exports. When food becomes scarce, those at the very bottom are the ones left out, all around the world — these are the rippling catastrophes which will swell and sink us, if we are mired in protracted battle.
And those nations who eventually buy Chinese surveillance, Russian mini-tanks and more *will* have a firm grip of their territory to begin with, and their all-seeing eye can crush uprisings, or at least make the likelihood of an uprising’s failure high enough to discourage most of the attempts. No liberation from within. If we ever want those tyrants to fall, we’ll have to re-consider the constraints we place upon initiating combat. And that makes *us* the ones who might shoot first…