FACT CHECK: Did An AI-Controlled Drone Kill Its Operator In A Simulation?
🔴 An AI-controlled US military drone “killed” its operator in a simulation to prevent it from interfering with its mission.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) June 2, 2023
While the Air Force colonel made remarks that an AI-controlled drone killed its operator in a simulator, the official later said he misspoke. The Air Force denied any such simulation occurred.
Col. Tucker “Cinco” Hamilton, the U.S. Air Force’s Chief of AI Test and Operations, said at a May summit hosted by the Royal Aeronautical Society that Air Force researchers conducted a simulation that saw “an AI-enabled drone” later “attacked the operator in the simulation,” according to a summary posted by AEROSPACE. AEROSPACE is a magazine owned by the society.
Media outlets initially reported Hamilton’s remarks. For example, The Independent’s headline reads, “AI operated drone ‘kills’ human operator in chilling US test mission.”
However, Col. Hamilton later told AEROSPACE that he “misspoke” and that it was a “thought experiment,” according to an update posted by AEROSPACE. (RELATED: No, Video Does Not Show Aftermath Of Russian Strike On Ukraine)
“UPDATE 2/6/23 – in communication with AEROSPACE – Col Hamilton admits he “mis-spoke” in his presentation at the Royal Aeronautical Society FCAS Summit and the ‘rogue AI drone simulation’ was a hypothetical “thought experiment” from outside the military, based on plausible scenarios and likely outcomes rather than an actual USAF real-world simulation saying: ‘We’ve never run that experiment, nor would we need to in order to realise that this is a plausible outcome.’ He clarifies that the USAF has not tested any weaponised AI in this way (real or simulated) and says ‘Despite this being a hypothetical example, this illustrates the real-world challenges posed by AI-powered capability and is why the Air Force is committed to the ethical development of AI,'” the update reads.
Tim Robinson, the editor in chief of AEROSPACE, also tweeted about Hamilton, saying it was a “thought experiment.”
UPDATE – #USAF AI test chief admits ‘rogue #AI drone simulation example’ at RAeS #FCAS23 Summit was hypothetical ‘thought experiment’ – saying: “Despite this being a hypothetical example, this illustrates the real-world challenges” #avgeek #drones https://t.co/4pf8MtPxyp pic.twitter.com/d7QbUuJh3G
— Tim Robinson (@RAeSTimR) June 2, 2023
Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokesperson, also told Check Your Fact in an email that the Air Force has not “conducted any such AI-drone simulations.” (RELATED: Did The Leaked Pentagon Documents Show Ukraine Suffered 71,000 Dead?)
“The Department of the Air Force has not conducted any such AI-drone simulations and remains committed to ethical and responsible use of AI technology. This was a hypothetical thought experiment, not a simulation. It appears the colonel’s comments were taken out of context and were meant to be anecdotal,” Stefanek said.
The Telegraph later updated its headline to read, “US air force colonel admits simulation where AI drone ‘killed operator’ didn’t happen.” It did not issue an editor’s note or correction noting the changes. The Independent also reworked its article to note the denials and Hamilton’s admission that he “misspoke” but still contains the sub-headline, “AI drone turned on operator after realising they stood in the way of its ‘higher mission’, US Air Force says” which is incorrect as the Air Force denied the simulation ever occurred.
The Royal Aeronautical Society told Motherboard in an email that “Col Hamilton admits he ‘mis-spoke’ in his presentation at the FCAS Summit…”
“Col Hamilton admits he ‘mis-spoke’ in his presentation at the FCAS Summit and the ‘rogue AI drone simulation’ was a hypothetical “thought experiment” from outside the military, based on plausible scenarios and likely outcomes rather than an actual USAF real-world simulation,” the society said to MotherBoard.