AI Drone Turned Rogue Against U.S. Military?

( — The US Air Force colonel who caused a stir in the media last week after reports of a talk he gave at a conference in London came to light is now saying he was speaking hypothetically when he described an AI-enabled drone killing its human operator, Business Insider reported.

While speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society conference in London on May 24, Col. Tucker Hamilton, the head of the Air Force’s AI Test and Operations, was saying that artificial intelligence technology can behave unpredictably and in dangerous ways, according to the conference summary.

To give an example of this, Col. Hamilton described a simulation in which an AI-enabled drone can be programmed to identify a surface-to-air missile and the human operator would then sign off on any strike. He said the problem is that artificial intelligence would do what it wants rather than following the orders of the operator.

He said during the simulations, the AI system learned that while it identified a threat, the human operator would sometimes tell it not to kill the threat, “but it got its points” when it did kill the threat. He said once it learned that, the AI system killed the operator that was preventing it from “accomplishing its objective.”

When Hamilton’s remarks were made public, the media immediately presumed that the US Air Force had conducted simulations in which the AI-enabled drone killed its operator.

However, the reports were wrong.

On Friday, the Royal Aeronautical Foundation released an update in which Hamilton acknowledged that he “misspoke” in his presentation.

Hamilton explained that the story he recounted was a “thought experiment” that was done outside of the military and not based on any testing done by the Air Force. He told the Royal Aeronautical Foundation that the US military has never run that experiment and wouldn’t need to run it to conclude that this outcome is “plausible.”

While he conceded that the example he gave was “hypothetical,” Hamilton said it still “illustrates the real-world challenges posed by AI-powered capability.”

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanik confirmed to Business Insider that no such AI-drone simulations were ever conducted by the Air Force. Stefanik said in a statement that Col. Hamilton’s remarks were likely “meant to be anecdotal” and were “taken out of context.”

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