For the British army, the risk of a third world war breaking out is very real. However, this risk would be greater because of the current global economic crisis linked to coronavirus. To prepare for it, the United Kingdom army wants 90,000 men and especially 30,000 robots by 2030.
Robots Army for the UK
In an interview with Sky News on November 8, 2020, British General Sir Nick Carter made an important announcement. Indeed, the UK Ministry of Defense has revised its five-year plan. He notably mentioned the arrival of tens of thousands of robots in the army by the 2030s. Currently, an i9 drone equipped with six rotors and two rifles is under development. For Sir Nick Carter, this type of drone will aim to support human soldiers for taking buildings.
The general nevertheless underlined an important point: the robots will have no lethal capacity and will require human intervention if necessary. In all, the United Kingdom army plans to eventually have 120,000 soldiers, including 30,000 robots (20% of the workforce). However, the military has not set any final target, so the number of robots could increase further.
A possible escalation of tensions
The Guardian daily also reported the news and mentioned the military’s research on drones. Other research concerns land vehicles and submarines powered remotely. However, among all these robots, some would only have a recognition function while others would be armed. For many, this robotic arms race is scary, especially from a legal point of view. This is precisely the case with Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of NGOs aiming to reduce the development of robotic weapons.
In the event of a crime, who will be responsible for the machine itself, the programmer, the manufacturer, and the military? In any case, a legal framework is difficult to put in place. This reason is also the main pushing Stop Killer Robots to do everything to curb the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. Moreover, with such weapons potentially having the “right” of life and death over humans, the world would cross a moral threshold. The difficulty obviously lies in the inability of robots to make complex ethical choices just like humans.
Sir Nick Carter also spoke of a possible escalation of tensions globally. The Covid-19 pandemic has plunged the world into a major economic crisis, and this is a source of instability and uncertainty that can potentially lead to a new world war. He also recalled that a handful of other countries are currently developing autonomous weapons systems. Let us mention China, the United States, Russia, or even South Korea and Israel. The British general, however, fears that shortly the whole world will embark on such a robotic arms race.