What does the future of warfare look like?
A cloud of 3D-printed drones big enough to bring down the latest U.S. stealth fighter, the F35, was just one of the combat scenarios evoked in a discussion of the future of warfare at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Much of the discussion focused on the changes computers are bringing to the battlefield, including artificial intelligence and autonomous systems — but also the way the battlefield is coming to computing, with cyberwar, and social media psyops an ever more real prospect.
Drone VS. airplane
Former U.S. Navy fighter pilot Mary Cummings, now director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University, delivered the first strike. “The barrier to entry to drone technology is so low that everyone can have one, and if the Chinese go out and print a million copies of a drone, a very small drone, and put those up against an F35 and they go into the engine, you basically obviate what is a very expensive platform,” she said. Drones could not only defeat the F35, on which the U.S. is spending what Cummins called “a ridiculous amount of money,” but also replace them, she said. “ISIS can go out now and print drones with a 3D printer, can print thousands of drones with a 3D printer at very low cost, and arm them with conventional weapons or biological weapons for example, and basically result in much more devastation than an F35 in a surgical strike could cause,” she said.
Safety of autonomous cars
Airborne drones aren’t the only autonomous vehicles that might cause concern, Cummings said. “When we go to an internet of things for vehicles, we will have a potential worldwide connectivity of terrorism, where terrorists can get into the network and start hacking driverless cars.” Worse still, she said, they could hack a truck. They don’t even have to have explosives on board to cause trouble she said: Hacking half a dozen trucks in the Washington, D.C., area and stopping them in the right places could bring traffic to a halt and open the way for all sorts of mischief […]