#ADFRAS2040 – Summary

A short article to link readers to all of the posts submitted in response to ADF Robotics and Autonomous Systems 2040 Call for Submissions.

Over the past three months, the teams at Grounded Curiosity, The Central Blue and The Forge have been publishing posts that responded to the Force Exploration Branch’s call for submissions on the topic of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) in 2040.

These submissions will be considered by the working groups that will iterate the Joint RAS Strategy on behalf of VCDF. This article summarises some critical themes across submissions to all three military blog platforms. For the purpose of this summary, ranks and titles have been removed – however, author biographies can be found with each linked article.

Gary Waters and Patrick Bigland advocated for successful integration of autonomous systems, including those in virtual environments. Their focus in collaborative autonomy was the warfighter, while acknowledging some of the technical limitations of human control. Jacob Choi furthered the discussion on human-machine teaming, clarifying that robots will no longer be mere tools for soldiers, but teammates. He elaborated that we can take cues from how war animals’ bond with human handlers to provide some feedforward input to the Joint RAS concept. Gareth Rice wrote about the imminent advent of the human-cyborg soldier, starting with the battlefield of the brain.

Keirin Joyce clarified that swarming is yet to be fully realised, despite these future systems having ‘started their capability life cycle in the 2010s.’ His primer reinforced the idea of scaling with a challenge to ‘think bold for 2040,’ with Matthew Ader further arguing that automated systems will turn the battlefield into a lethal panopticon. Ader elaborated in a separate article that humanitarian organisations and advocacy groups should also use autonomous systems, such as self-organising swarms of driverless trucks, to serve non-combatants within conflict-affected environments. Zac Rogers raised points for and against Uberisation in the business of war, with a potential model for the Australian Civilian Cyber Corps.

Emily Delfina discussed why human control is necessary in autonomous weapons systems (AWS) from a legal, ethical and operational perspective, and the subsequent implications for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Paul Grant and Nick Alexander argued that health is ‘no longer a mere enabler’, as the advent of autonomous health agents allows for greater opportunities to exploit, and vulnerabilities susceptible to adversary attack. Their ‘Warfighting health effect in 2040’ submission offered a vivid narrative into what autonomous medical evacuation, security for casualty evacuation, an airborne hospital platform, medical resupply and telehealth support will look like in 2040, threaded together across four vignettes.

Jacob Simpson drew attention to the double-edged sword within AI concerning command and control (C2), and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). Simpson argued that by developing a counter-AI strategy, the ADF could sever an adversary’s trust in their AI-dependent C2 and ISR systems, thereby degrading their decision-making process and improving the ADF’s ability to achieve decision superiority.

Kristi Adams highlighted the ethical and operational challenges that advances in biometric identification present to Australia. The relationship between biometrics and security has progressed rapidly from fingerprints, through facial recognition, to include heartbeat identification. AI-enabled, non-cooperative biometric collection and identification promises enhanced security but potentially at the risk of privacy.

Nate Streher provided a naval perspective analysing how the action-reaction balance will continue to define technological development in the military. Mine countermeasures (MCM) have been at the forefront of RAS adoption, and this will unlikely change in the future, but, as Streher highlighted, for the all benefits that RAS provide MCM teams, there will continue to be vulnerabilities that can be exploited by a tech-savvy adversary.

These submissions represent a wide selection of voices with diverse experiences in uniform and academia. Authors have written to provide their expertise in their respective fields, and in doing so, have supported the Joint RAS Strategy’s consultation process. The Central Blue, Grounded Curiosity and The Forge thank all the contributors for their submissions on behalf of Force Exploration Branch.

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