Robotics & Geopolitics: U.S. Navy Receives Sea Hunter, Judges Turn to AI Sentencing

February 09, 2018      

Sea Hunter could be the first in a new wave of unmanned warships, and China is less worried than other countries about robots taking jobs. Robotics Business Review has partnered with Abishur Prakash at Center for Innovating the Future to provide its members with cutting-edge insights into recent developments in international robotics, artificial intelligence, and unmanned systems. Are you ready to be updated?

DARPA delivers Sea Hunter to U.S. Navy

Sea Hunter, an anti-submarine warfare continuous trail unmanned vessel developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has been officially handed over to the U.S. Navy.

From now on, it will be up to the Office of Naval Research to develop it. A second ship has also been commissioned, but there is no public information as to how exactly the U.S. plans to use Sea Hunter I and Sea Hunter II.

As with their land-based cousins, unmanned and autonomous surface vessels also have implications for fishing, shipping, utilities, and scientific exploration.

The global market for unmanned surface vehicles could grow from $470.1 million last year to $938.5 million by 2022, according to Markets and Markets.

While the U.S. military may not publicly reveal how it plans to use its unmanned vessels, their capabilities will create new challenges for countries.

For starters, there remains uncertainty over what kind of decisions autonomous vessels can make at sea. This is connected to the larger conversation regarding killer robots. Can they fire on another ship if they feel threatened? If they identify an enemy submarine, do they try to warn it, or do they simply report it to humans?

For now, the U.S. Navy has to worry only about Sea Hunter I and II, but when there are dozens of unmanned and autonomous ships floating around the world, there could be ambiguity over how the next naval conflict could arise.

U.S. courts tap AI for sentencing

Minority Report and other stories and movies have speculated that artificial intelligence could be involved in future government functions, such as the sentencing of criminals. But now, science fiction could be turning into science fact in response to a backlog of cases.

Judges in New Jersey and other states are experimenting with a system called Public Safety Assessment. The system is activated the moment a suspect has his or her fingerprints inputted after arrest. From there, the system ranks this person and gives the judge a score. Judges then use this score to decide what to do about a defendant.

Unsurprisingly, the main concern around such AI systems is bias. Will certain people be more likely to have a lower score because of their skin color, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, or other variables? This can’t be answered yet.

Perhaps the bigger challenge is the political aspect of AI sentencing people unfairly. The next elections could see politicians promising AI restrictions or other policies to win votes from communities unfairly affected by AI-managed court systems.

Chinese most positive about automation and future jobs

A new report shows which countries are most and least optimistic about the job market as robotics and AI enter the mix. People in China are the most optimistic, with 65% of people polled there saying they believe that automation technologies will create new jobs in the next five to 10 years.

On the other hand, the U.K. and Germany were the least upbeat, with only 18% of people believing in automation creating more jobs. The global average was 29%.

It’s surprising that China is the most optimistic, since automation is expanding so much there. China currently has a lower robot density (or number of robots per 10,000 people) than many other industrialized nations.

There are two possible explanations. First, the Chinese, like many others, may believe that by automating tasks, humans will be freed up to spend their time in more productive ways.

The second explanation is censorship — China’s people aren’t getting the full picture. WeChat has censored posts regarding robots taking jobs in the past. If more such censorship is taking place, it could put China in a dangerous position as millions of people lose their jobs in the coming years.