Drones at Aberporth demo 18/05/2013 – report.

On Saturday afternoon last week I attended a small demonstration organised by local Quakers outside the MOD base in Parclyn just above Aberporth.  There were only ten activists there on this cloudy day plus one desultory police car parked 5o yards down the road.

MOD Aberporth is renowned for having been one of the main missile testing ranges in Britain. However it has effectively been privatised and, following a management buyout, it is now run by QinetiQ. QinetiQ is a research company with many links to the MOD.

There have have been a number of arms sales fairs held at Parc Aberporth, in particular focused on UAVs and UCAVs.  Since 2010 the base has been involved in the testing of the Watchkeeper drone (developed by Thales) for the British Army flying out of West Wales airport. Members of Bro Emlyn For Peace and Justice and other local resident groups have been monitoring the ongoing drone development at Aberporth for the last ten years.

It is quite clear with the opening of the new drone facility in Lincolnshire that the British Government, like the rest of the world, are intent on maintaining and increasing the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for use by the armed forces in all current and future theatres of war, However it is also clear that there are other uses to which this technology can be put, including surveillance and social control within the home borders.

It is a fact that many police forces across the world have invested large sums of money in drones and are now using them on a regular basis. It is also clear that there is now a lot of interest in the development of autonomous weaponry and surveillance systems using AI (artificial intelligence). Such Autonomous weapons are already in use in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the form of anti aircraft weapons that don’t have to wait for a human to give it an order to deploy.

There is a lot of discussion going on between the MOD and The Pentagon about the use of autonomous AI in drones and other robot development. All of this research is partly driven by political aims in that it is becoming less and less acceptable for young men to be seen coming back from the front in body bags or severely damaged by conventional war.

Many people argue that the spectre of autonomous UAVs and other forms of social control technology is just pie in the sky sci fi fantasy. This is a dangerous delusion. QinetiQ has it’s own AI division and has been linking it’s work with its UAV development for about 7 years now. The pentagon via DARPA and The MOD are regularly discussing the ethical dilemmas associated with selling the concept of drones that take their own decisions to the politicians and the people.

In West Wales we have fought a lone battle against the developments at West Wales Airport and Parc Aberporth. Local politicians who are desperate to try and solve some of the economic development problems caused by recession and unemployment have been beguiled by the false promises of government agencies and arms manufacturers and have largely turned there back on the issues outlined here. It is time for the people to take action and we need national co-ordinated support from peace activists for future events.

AI, Robots and Psychology

BBC Radio Four aired this show today and it demonstrates that there are some serious voices with major concerns about the development of autonomous killer machines.  This is well worth a listen and I urge all readers to share this link.

“Robots probably won’t take over the world, but they probably will be given ever greater responsibility. Already, robots care for the elderly in Japan, and drones have dropped bombs on Afghanistan. Professor Noel Sharkey fell in love with artificial intelligence in the 1980s, celebrated when he programmed his first robot to move in a straight line down the corridor and , for many years, judged robot wars on TV. Now, he thinks AI is a dangerous dream. Jim al-Khalili hears how Noel left school at 15 to become an electrician’s apprentice and amateur rock musician before graduating as a Doctor of Psychology and world authority on robots, studying both their strengths and their limitations.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01q8mm0

Pull the Plug on Killer Robots

This video from Human Rights Watch is interesting but behind the curve a bit in that there already autonomous weapons deployed in Afghanistan and elsewhere (more on this in a future blog) however they are right about the issue being something that should exercise everybody who is concerned about the abuse of surveillance and weaponry in an increasingly weaponised and autonomous world.