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Artificial Intelligence Based Improvised Explosive Devices

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On 08th June 2017, Denis Balibouse Sophia, a robot integrated with the latest technologies and AI is displayed during a presentation at the “AI for Good” Global Summit in Geneva (Figure 1). The event symbolizes next technological accomplishment which will revolutionize the world in future. Though there is euphoria about this latest technology but rapid advances in AI are raising risks that malicious users will soon exploit the technology to create terror. Debate on the moral and legal implications of autonomous weapons based on AI technology and their misuse by rogue states and terrorist organizations has begun, and there are more concerns than jubilation. The combination of technology and terror ideology has always been the biggest threat to the world peace and humanity. The UK Lords committee, while exploring the effect of AI on business and society, was told by the experts in AI industry that developments in AI were being driven by the private, sector which is in contrast with previous eras when the military led the way in cutting-edge technology. And thus it is more challenging to stop it falling into the wrong hands.

Understanding Artificial Intelligence

Simulated intelligence in machines where they are programmed to think like a human being and mimic the way human acts is AI. The artificial intelligence (AI) also known as machine intelligence is intelligence displayed by machines. It is in contrast to the natural intelligence demonstrated by humans and other animals. This term is applied when a machine mimics the cognitive functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as learning and problem-solving. The ideal characteristic of artificial intelligence is its ability to rationalize and take actions that have the best chance of attaining a specific goal. A cross-disciplinary approach based on mathematics, computer science, linguistics, psychology, and robotics is amalgamated to create learning, reasoning, and perception related capabilities in a machine. The Autonomous vehicle technology is also known as self-driven cars is an example of artificial intelligence where the integrated computer system takes into account all external data and process it to act in a way that prevents a collision. Therefore such machines can evaluate the consequences of any action they take, as each action will impact the result. So far Artificial intelligence has demonstrated prowess in understanding human speech, competing at a high level in strategic game systems like chess, autonomous car technology, intelligent routing in content delivery networks, military simulations, and interpreting complex data including images and videos.

To understand AI in depth one must also know the concept of intelligent agents. Any AI program can think of as intelligent agents that interact with particular environments. The perception and action are means of interacting with the environment. It is a rational and autonomous system which perceives the environment and takes decisions based on a specific objective and further plan its actions to achieve its goals. Therefore AI aims to design intelligent agents that are useful, reactive, autonomous and even social and pro-active. An agent perceives its environment through percept and acts through actuators. Perception for an intelligent agent is the means of recognizing the environment like vision or infrared rangefinders. Actuation is the means of navigation or manipulation of the environment for example motors.

The AI technology is progressing fast and has found its place in many commercial, household and military applications. The prospect of how it will take over all human jobs is fascinating. In future, this technology will have widespread applications, and it will be very easy to acquire and develop it. To ascertain the future progress of AI, Katja made a report based on a survey of leading researchers in artificial intelligence and corroborated his findings in a paper. Based on the feedback he forecast that AI will outperform humans (Figure 3) in jobs such as translating languages by 2024, writing high school essays by 2026, and driving trucks by 2027. AI will be better than humans at working in retail by 2031, able to write a bestselling book by 2049 or capable of working as a surgeon by 2053.

AI Based IEDs

Improvised explosive devices IEDs have been the most potent instrument of terror used by terrorist organizations world over. An IED is an improvised means of detonating an explosive charge to cause casualties and damage to the property. It comprises of the explosive charge, detonator, power source, a trigger mechanism and a delivery mechanism. The trigger acts as a switch which allows the power to flow in the circuit which in turn detonates the detonator and the explosive. The terrorist world over has been on the lookout for the advanced trigger mechanism to cause maximum damage and for targeted killings. Generally anti-handling, timer/delay or command mechanisms are used for its fabrication. But of-late the terrorist organization are improvising and innovating the advanced trigger and delivery mechanisms to cause maximum destruction and counter the security forces and outdo their countermeasures in this field. Similarly, the delivery mechanisms to the target area have also been improvised to avoid exposure and prevent their losses. Earlier human suicide bombings, VBIEDs and command based IEDs has been their major thrust, but recently they have started using drones as seen from ISIS operations in Syria. The future use of an autonomous vehicle and drone technology based on AI can’t negate. The worrisome fact is that they have access to the latest technology with the help of their sympathizers. The future use of AI as trigger and delivery mechanism is a high probability and a big threat. An intelligent autonomous delivery and trigger mechanism can be used for delivering and initiating the improvised device to destroy the target unsuspectingly and without any direct involvement. Refer figure 4 it gives a pictorial description of an IED based on AI. The figure depicts a conventional IED with a delivery mechanism and a trigger mechanism. The delivery mechanism based on AI will sense the environment with the sensors and feed the input to the AI-based software system which will process the information and for the attainment of its goal, will create actions. These actions are to deliver, the killer component of the system that is improvised explosives with the trigger mechanism to the specified target. The trigger mechanism based on AI will also work on the similar principle and will sense the environment with the sensors. It feeds the input to the AI-based software system which will process the information and for the attainment of its goal, will create actions. These actions will be the trigger which will complete the circuit and send required power to the detonator to initiate the explosive charges. This sophisticated system because of the intelligence and decision making skills will cause maximum damage, and it may also be used to target high-value targets like VIPs. The delivery mechanism based on AI will be an autonomous system like autonomous cars, Drones or any robotic mobile system. The delivery system will work in synchronization with the trigger mechanism and will take feedback from it. The sole purpose of delivery systems is to deliver the IED to the target. The IEDs may have one or both the systems integrated.

In future, the way the AI-based technology is progressing it will surround humanity with AI-based robots, drones, and autonomous systems. Any terror outfit can unsuspectingly use these object to create such IEDs for mass or targeted killings.

Threat perception

In the foreseeable future, AI technology will have repercussions in some present technologies. The expertise will be easily acquirable as it will become common in future. We have seen that terror groups like ISIS and Taliban have started utilizing current technologies like drones against security forces. In May 2017 Gen. Raymond Thomas, the commander of US Special Operations Command, said during a conference that the “most daunting” problem his operators in Iraq faced in 2016 were cheap, commercially available drones [7,8]. The countermeasures perceived for autonomous technology like drones and self-driven cars are Radars, Jammers or Technology to disrupt GPS [8].

In the present scenario the threat based on existing and accessible technology, these countermeasures might sound pacifying. But with the advent of AI, the future autonomous technology will be able to read the terrain and negotiate obstacles without any external assistance like Radio or GPS. With the advent of this technology where a machine can rationalize and interpret the situation and take best necessary action for the achievement of the programmed or specified goals independently and without any external control or assistance will be a nightmare for security forces. All electronic countermeasures available as of now will not be able to take on the threat posed by terror groups equipped with AI technology.

Off-late the experts associated with the development of AI and military industry has openly conveyed their scepticism fearing misuse of AI by state and non-state actors. Experts believe that world organization like UN and all governments should take control of AI and be prepared to prevent its misuse.

Researchers, CEOs, and high-profile individuals like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking with many other AI scientists signed an open letter presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina in July 2015 calling for the banning of military AI, and warning of its dangers to humanity.

More than 100 leaders in the industries of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics including SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Mustafa Suleyman, who founded Google’s DeepMind and heads its applied AI unit, signed an open letter on 21.08.2017 to convey their apprehensions to UN. The letter stated that “Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act, Once this Pandora’s Box open, it will be hard to close. We, therefore, implore the High Contracting Parties to find a way to protect us all from these dangers,” [9]. Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at University of Sheffield, said to UKs Lords Artificial Intelligence committee that he feared “very bad copies” of such weapons – without safeguards built-in to prevent indiscriminate killing – would fall into the hands of terrorist groups such as so-called Islamic State.” [3]. Alvin Wilby, vice president of research at Thales, a French defense giant that supplies reconnaissance drones to the British Army told UK’s House of Lords Artificial Intelligence Committee that, rogue states and terrorists “will get their hands on lethal artificial intelligence in the very near future (Figure 5 (b)).”[10]. Terror groups operating in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan use military ordinance and other equipment extensively to cause damage to property and life in these war-torn regions. There is a high probability that terror groups can also hack the software and hardware components of AI technology-based military equipment in future to carry out such operations.

Major Threats Perceived

  1. Explosive Laden Autonomous Vehicle Technology
  2. Explosive Laden Autonomous Flying Vehicles
  3. Swarm Drones with explosives:
  4. Drone with explosive for targeted killing
  5. Voice/Face recognition and other AI-based IEDs
  6. CBRNE with AI amalgamation.

Explosive Laden Autonomous Vehicle Technology

Self-driven cars (Refer figure 6 (a)) also known as autonomous vehicles based on AI has been a focus area of most of the car manufacturers of late. Delphi Technologies PLC. DLPH, Nvidia, and Tesla are the front-runners at the intersection of AI and driverless cars as per survey. This technology will revolutionize the transport system in future (I). In recent times suicide attacks with Vehicle-based IEDs (VBIEDs) [11] have been a major instrument of terrorist to cause destruction and terror [12]. VBIEDs (Figure 6 (b)) are a vehicle used to deliver a substantial amount of explosive to the target, and it blends with the environment without suspicion [13]. In future autonomous vehicles technology with AI will dominate the transportation market and will be easily available in the market [14]. A terrorist organization can use these vehicles laden with explosive and improvised means for its initiation based on AI and can target high-value places without any need of suicide bombers. That will be a disastrous scenario when one or multiple cars can target high-value target with tonnes of explosives. According to report “ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND LIFE IN 2030” in the typical North American city in 2030, changes brought out by AI won’t be limited to driverless cars and trucks, but are likely to include flying vehicles and personal robots, and will raise social, ethical and policy issues [14].

Explosive Laden Autonomous Flying Vehicles

Big companies around the world including Airbus, Google, and UBER are already developing autonomous flying vehicles. Chinese drone-maker EHang has tested and released the video of their EHang 184 “autonomous aerial vehicle (Figure 7). The EHang 184 megadrone is an autonomous aerial vehicle that can transport one or two people. The single-seat version boasted a carrying capacity greater than 500 pounds (230 kg), while the two-seat model raises that to 617 pounds (280 kg) [16].

During the 87th Geneva International Motor Show on March 7, 2017, Italdesign and Airbus also unveiled pop-up a trailblazing modular ground and air passenger vehicle system. Pop-up based on an Artificial Intelligence platform which based on its user knowledge, manages the travel complexity offering alternative usage scenarios and assuring a seamless travel experience [18].

The world had already seen 9/11 terror attacks by the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda when it hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Almost 3,000 people killed. Nineteen trained terrorists carried out this operation. In future also once terror organizations have access to technology like flying autonomous vehicles equipped with AI they can plan on similar lines and can target big value objectives after lading flying cars with a huge amount of explosives. AI technology can also be used to hack these autonomous systems and can be used to attack high-value targets by terror organizations.

Swarm Drones with explosives

The Russian Ministry of Defence claims that on 05 Jan 2018, its forces in Syria were attacked by a swarm of home-made drones, first time such a coordinated assault has reported in a military action [19, 20]. Electronic jamming thwarted the attack and shooting down. The biggest threat of AI foreseen by experts has swarmed drones with autonomous decision making and coordination capability due to AI integration. The perception is that a swarm of explosive-laden small drones thousands in numbers can be left on a city to kill maximum humans (Figure 8 (a)). The AI technology will identify the human targets and will get detonated at the ideal moment to cause causalities. The drone technology has already reached a level where these things can be easily prepared [21].

A recent report in popular science published on 09 Jan 2018 claimed that China had developed a 1000 drone’s swarm. It is very cheap and uses datalink and software-based drones capable of coordinating autonomously and synchronize movements with a very small flight deviancy. USA defense department in a press release on 09 Jan 2017 claimed that they tested 103 Perdix micro-drones which demonstrated advanced swarm behaviors such as collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying, and self-healing. Strategic Capabilities Office Director William Roper said they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature [22]. Most of the countries are working to develop such technology for military use and integrating AI for making it more lethal. The fear of AI experts that this technology may land into the hands of rogue elements and will create havoc may be a reality soon .

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