Cyborg Soldiers, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotic Mass Surveillance May be Here Sooner Than You Think

By Carolanne Wright

Contributing writer for Wake Up World

Straight out of the science fiction film The Terminator, a 72-page Pentagon document lays out their plan for the future of combat and war, which will utilize artificial intelligence (or AI), robotics, information technology as well as biotechnology.

Proponents of advanced technology — such as robot soldiers and artificial intelligence — argue both can be made ethically superior to humans, where issues of rape, pillaging or the destroying of towns in fits of rage would be drastically reduced, if not eliminated. Many in the science community are casting a weary eye toward this technology, however, warning that it can easily surpass human control, leading to unpredictable — and even catastrophic — consequences.

Defense Innovation Initiative — The Future of War

The Department of Defense (DoD) has announced the United States will be entering a brave new world of automated combat in a little over a decade, where wars will be completely fought using advanced weaponized robotic systems. We’ve already had a glimpse of what’s to come with the use of drones. But, according to the DoD, we haven’t seen anything yet.

In a quest to establish “military-technological superiority”, the Pentagon ultimately has its sights set on monopolizing “transformational advances” in robotics, artificial intelligence and information technology — otherwise known as the Defense Innovation Initiative, a plan to identify and develop pioneering technological breakthroughs for use in the military.

Disturbingly, a new study from the National Defense University — a higher education institution funded by the Pentagon — has urged the DoD to take drastic action in order to avoid the downfall of US military might, even though the report also warns that accelerating technological advances will “flatten the world economically, socially, politically, and militarily, it could also increase wealth inequality and social stress.”

The NDU report explores several areas where technological advances could benefit the military — one of which is mass collection of data from social media platforms that is then analyzed by artificial intelligence instead of humans. Another is “embedded systems [in] automobiles, factories, infrastructure, appliances and homes, pets, and potentially, inside human beings, [where] the line between conventional robotics and intelligent everyday devices will become increasingly blurred.” These systems will help the government to monitor individuals and the population and “will provide detection and predictive analytics.”

Armies of “Kill Bots that can autonomously wage war” are also a real possibility as unmanned robotic systems are becoming increasingly intelligent and less expensive to manufacture. These robots could be placed in civilian life as well, to execute “surveillance, infrastructure monitoring, police telepresence, and homeland security applications.”

To counteract public outcry about autonomous robots having the capacity to kill on their own, the authors recommend the Pentagon should be “highly proactive” in establishing “it is not perceived as creating weapons systems without a ‘human in the loop.’”

Strong AI, which simulates human cognition — including self-awareness, sentience and consciousness — is just on the horizon, some say as early as the 2020s.

But not everyone is over the moon about these advances, especially where AI is concerned. Leaders in the field of technology, journalists and inventors are all sounding the alarm about the devastating consequences of AI technology that’s allowed to flourish unchecked.

AI Technology — What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

As the DoD charges ahead with its plan to dominate the military and surveillance sphere with unbridled advances in technology, many are questioning the serious ramifications of such a path.

Journalist R. Michael Warren writes:

“I’m with Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk. Artificial intelligence (A.I.) promises great benefits. But it also has a dark side. And those rushing to create robots smarter than humans seem oblivious to the consequences.

Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, predicts that by 2029 computers will be able to outsmart even the most intelligent humans. They will understand multiple languages and learn from experience.

Once they can do that, we face two serious issues.

First, how do we teach these creatures to tell right from wrong — in our own self defense?

Second, robots will self-improve faster than we slow evolving humans. That means outstripping us intellectually with unpredictable outcomes.” [source]

During a conference of AI experts in 1999, a poll was given as to when they thought the Turing test (where computers surpass humans in intelligence) would occur. The general thought was about 100 years. Many believed it could never be achieved. Today, Kurzweil thinks we are already at the brink of intellectually superior computers.

 

British theoretical physicist and Cambridge University professor Stephen Hawking doesn’t mince words about the dangers of artificial intelligence:

“I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” Hawking told the BBC. “Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it will take off on it’s own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate.” He adds, “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”

At the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium in October 2015, Tesla founder Elon Musk issued a stark warning about unregulated development of AI:

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”

Furthermore, in a tweet posted by Musk in 2014, he thinks “We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.” In the same year, he said on CNBC that he believes the possibility of a Terminatorlike scenario could actually come to pass.

Likewise, British inventor Clive Sinclair believes artificial intelligence will be the downfall of mankind:

“Once you start to make machines that are rivaling and surpassing humans with intelligence, it’s going to be very difficult for us to survive,” he told the BBC. “It’s just an inevitability.”

Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates agrees.

“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence,” he says. “First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

That said, Gates’ Microsoft Research has designated “over a quarter of all attention and resources” to artificial intelligence development, whereas Musk has invested in AI companies in order to “keep an eye on where the technology is headed”.

Related reading: AI Building AI – Is Humanity Losing Control Over Artificial Intelligence?

Article sources:

Recommended articles by Carolanne Wright:

About the author:

Carolanne enthusiastically believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, natural foods chef and wellness coach, Carolanne has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of organic living, gratefulness and joyful orientation for over 13 years

Through her website Thrive-Living.net she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people from around the world who share a similar vision. Follow Carolanne on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

China wants an “orderly exit” from bitcoin mining

Is Your Kodi Setup Being Spied On?

By Andy

Large numbers of people are running Kodi with a poorly-protected remote access interface, which enables third-parties to view their addons and other sensitive information. In some cases, people’s private videos are also vulnerable to being viewed remotely by anyone with a browser. Worst still, attackers can change Kodi users’ settings, which can cause chaos to the unexpecting.

As quite possibly the most people media player on earth, Kodi is installed on millions of machines – around 38 million according to the MPAA. The software has a seriously impressive range of features but one, if not configured properly, raises security issues for Kodi users.

For many years, Kodi has had a remote control feature, whereby the software can be remotely managed via a web interface.

This means that you’re able to control your Kodi setup installed on a computer or set-top box using a convenient browser-based interface on another device, from the same room or indeed anywhere in the world. Earlier versions of the web interface look like the one in the image below.

The old Kodi web-interface – functional but basic
But while this is a great feature, people don’t always password-protect the web-interface, meaning that outsiders can access their Kodi setups, if they have that person’s IP address and a web-browser. In fact, the image shown above is from a UK Kodi user’s setup that was found in seconds using a specialist search engine.

While the old web-interface for Kodi was basically a remote control, things got more interesting in late 2016 when the much more functional Chorus2 interface was included in Kodi by default. It’s shown in the image below.

Chorus 2 Kodi Web-Interface
Again, the screenshot above was taken from the setup of a Kodi user whose setup was directly open to the Internet. In every way the web-interface of Kodi acts as a web page, allowing anyone with the user’s IP address (with :8080 appended to the end) to access the user’s setup. It’s no different than accessing Google with an IP address (216.58.216.142), instead of Google.com.

However, Chorus 2 is much more comprehensive that its predecessors which means that it’s possible for outsiders to browse potentially sensitive items, including their addons if a password hasn’t been enabled in the appropriate section in Kodi.

Kodi users probably don’t want this seen in public
While browsing someone’s addons isn’t the most engaging thing in the world, things get decidedly spicier when one learns that the Chorus 2 interface allows both authorized and unauthorized users to go much further.

For example, it’s possible to change Kodi’s system settings from the interface, including mischievous things such as disabling keyboards and mice. As seen (or not seen) in the redacted section in the image below, it can also give away system usernames, for example.

Access to Kodi settings – and more
But aside from screwing with people’s settings (which is both pointless and malicious), the Chorus 2 interface has a trick up its sleeve. If people’s Kodi setups contain video or music files (which is what Kodi was originally designed for), in many cases it’s possible to play these over the web interface.

In basic terms, someone with your IP address can view the contents of your video library on the other side of the world, with just a couple of clicks.

The image below shows that a Kodi setup has been granted access to some kind of storage (network or local disk, for example) and it can be browsed, revealing movies. (To protect the user, redactions have been made to remove home video titles, network, and drive names)

Network storage accessed via Chorus 2
The big question is, however, whether someone accessing a Kodi setup remotely can view these videos via a web browser. Answer: Absolutely.

Clicking through on each piece of media reveals a button to the right of its title. Clicking that reveals two options – ‘Queue in Kodi’ (to play on the installation itself) or ‘Download’, which plays/stores the content via a remote browser located anywhere in the world. Chrome works like a charm.

Queue to Kodi or watch remotely in a browser
While this is ‘fun’ and potentially useful for outsiders looking for content, it’s not great if it’s your system that’s open to the world. The good news is that something can be done about it.

In their description for Chorus 2, the Kodi team explain all of its benefits of the interface but it appears many people don’t take their advice to introduce a new password. The default password and username are both ‘kodi’ which is terrible for security if people leave things the way they are.

If you run Kodi, now is probably the time to fix the settings, disable the web interface if you don’t use it, or enable stronger password protection if you do.

Change that password – now
Just recently, Kodi addon repository TVAddons issued a warning to people using jailbroken Apple TV 2 devices. That too was a default password issue and one that can be solved relatively easily.

“People need to realize that their Kodi boxes are actually mini computers and need to be treated as such,” a TVAddons spokesperson told TF.

“When you install a build, or follow a guide from an unreputable source, you’re opening yourself up to potential risk. Since Kodi boxes aren’t normally used to handle sensitive data, people seem to disregard the potential risks that are posed to their network.”