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Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,607 ratings  ·  200 reviews
The era of autonomous weapons has arrived. Today around the globe, at least thirty nations have weapons that can search for and destroy enemy targets all on their own. Paul Scharre, a leading expert in next-generation warfare, describes these and other high tech weapons systems—from Israel’s Harpy drone to the American submarine-hunting robot ship Sea Hunter—and examines t ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published March 12th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company (first published April 24th 2018)
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Bill Gates
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was a kid, I read a lot of sci-fi books. One of the most common themes was “man vs. machine,” which often took the form of robots becoming self-aware and threatening humanity. This theme has also become a staple of Hollywood movies like The Terminator and The Matrix.

Despite the prevalence of this theme, I don’t lose any sleep worrying about this scenario. But I do think we should spend more time thinking about the implications—positive and negative—of recent progress in artificial intelli
Luis Lopez
I could not finish this book despite my interest in technology. As an engineer who is fascinated by artificial intelligence and machine learning, I was very eager to read this book and learn more from what experts are thinking and doing with AI. Though I did learn a few cool things, there was lots of repetition. I believe the author meant to write an informative and interesting book but as a reader it was not enough to keep me engaged.
Jay Pruitt
"It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear! And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!"

Does it concern you that in the near future we'll all be dependent upon driverless cars to get around? Trust me, that's nothing!

This book, Army of None, was a real eye-opener for me. We're living in a world where warfare will soon be waged at the push of a button. "Autonomous" weapons systems, designed and programmed by
Mar 10, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: junk
Short version: a toxic book coming from a fear monger with a governmental expansion agenda.

Long version:

I am very interested in the subject. And, as with bioethics, the perspective is very dark. Most, if not all, asking for "moderation", "control" or anything in between are simply primitivists scared out of their wits of what technology might bring.

In this particular case, Scharre is a Luddite. His understanding of the subject is shallow at best, although the surface covered is large indeed. Fro
Jan 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: tech
This didn't really get interesting for me until the chapter on Russian bots which started off the section that I'd call 'what's the state of the art'. In covering several weapon systems from around the world, the salient point for each was whether or not it was automated or truly autonomous and how that status is defined. The chapter on general IA concepts was the highlight of the book for me. It covered Google's AI program DeepMind as it learned the Chinese/Japanese/Korean game of GO. A task fa ...more
Matt Seraph
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
We've gotten used to a certain model of popularized knowledge: a clear thesis, summarized on the back of the book, and a chapter by chapter marshalling of evidence in support.

Army of None is from a different school, and frustrating if you ask that of it. Rather than a single argument, it is structured as a thematic literature survey, exploring topics as diverse as the targeting systems of Aegis Combat system equipped submarines, cyber warfare, and philosophy of the rules of armed engagement. Th
Szymon Warda
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me a while to start reading the book and I've struggled through the first 10%. Not because it is bad, but because my point of view was that automated warfare is the way things will go.
The book showed a much broader perspective and how automation complicates war and politics.
But if it was the only thing that cought my attention in this book I wouldn't rate it so high. It is also a very realistic view of what questions we will need to ask ourselves before, or during the development of AI s
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed this book considerably. I went back and forth on the rating, but since I statistically don't give enough five star ratings, I'll bump it up. This book isn't perfect but it has a lot to say about automation in a readable style.

Beyond that, I don't have many comments. It's an excellent description of issues regarding automation in warfare, a decent exploration of some general AI risks, and a start at considering policy. Looking at criticism of the book, I think it's a more nuanced and ba
Joe H
Jun 23, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I just didn't know if I could make it to the end of this book, trying desperately to give the author the benefit of the doubt, but let me tell you that as a researcher in AI, I can tell you this author has gotten everything wrong. "Autonomous" is a ubiquitous and undefined word throughout the book and even though the author tries to remain consistent by adding flavors of "autonomous" he fails miserably by blurring his own lines. It's disturbing that someone who works in a think-tank on autonomou ...more
Michael F
May 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Autonomous weapons (i.e. killer robots) are one of the many incredible and terrifying technologies coming to our world whether we're ready for them or not. Army of None is a thorough survey of the development of autonomy in weapons technology, its potential application in the future, and the advantages and disadvantages of autonomous and semi-autonomous systems. It explains technical details well for one with no particular knowledge of the subject. The book focuses particularly on the moral and ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book that explores the future of autonomous weapons. These weapons range from loitering munitions to drones to nuclear command and control systems (think war games). Further, the book explores not only advancements in technology, but the ethics and morality of developing these types of systems.
Juan Rivera
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lecturas-2018
Each year Bill Gates recommends the 5 books that he has liked the most. An avid reader and quite good tastes. I almost always follow his recommendations.
Of the books he recommends he had already read one, today I finished "Army of None: autonomous weapons and the future of war" written by Paul Scharre.
To think many topics:
- Artificial intelligence is progressing more and more, there are even programs that, in developing this intelligence, obtain unpredictable results for humans. This can happen
Oren Mizrahi
May 30, 2019 rated it did not like it
Scharre is the last person who should be writing a book about a topic he clearly doesn’t understand. As someone with a military background, he does a decent job of elaborating on a “insider’s perspective” of autonomous weapon use, a few examples of its history, and other countries’ current state of affairs.

Beyond this, he has no idea what he is talking about. His review of neural networks reflects that of a first year computer science student after the first lecture of a survey course on AI and
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is the reason I'm 5 books behind in my 2019 reading challenge. It took me forever to finish. I had to keep renewing my library loans. It was difficult to focus on the audio version; I had to keep rewinding, and often just had to give up and play music on my commute. I found it impossible to read the hardcopy. I did learn a little, but I'm pretty certain I'd fail a quiz.

I really wanted to learn more about the complexity of the challenges associated with ethics as well as the technologi
The content wasn't what I was expecting based on the title. I thought there would be more content on weapons of the future and how they would affect warfare. There was some of that, but it seemed like most of the book philosophized on the ethics/morality of autonomous weapons. I'm glad people are thinking about it, and people have thought a lot about it, but I think there was one message repeated throughout the book: Ultimately, what other nations (e.g., China, Russia) choose with respect to dep ...more
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very good exploration of autonomous weapons, AI, and the potential of future technology in war. Written in very simple language. Worth your time.
Andy Klein
Informative but not all that interesting. Although there was a lot of detail, I don’t feel like I learned very much. Could easily have been 50% shorter. Lots of repetition.
Feb 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Over the holiday break I read Stuart Russell's Human Compatible (my review) which was an extremely interesting, thought-provoking exploration into the real risks of artificial intelligence, and how they can be mitigated. Super interesting but written from a philosophic and academic perspective. (that's not a bad thing, just the truth)

In Army of None, Scharre explores the consequences of automation and machine autonomy from his real-life perspectives and experiences in serving in the US Army and
The US military has paid millions of dollars to stay at the technological cutting edge. Scharre walks the reader thru the various weapon platforms that are in development and the arguments for and against autonomy. He interviewed activists, ethicists, psychologists, inventors, programers and defense experts to give a well rounded view of the current field. He also traces the development of smart weapons, all the way back to World War II. Scharre is a Pentagon defense expert and former Army Range ...more
May 07, 2019 rated it liked it
This is more of a 3.5, but I feel like I give every single book 4 stars, so I wanted to mix it up a little bit. Anyway, this is a very important book to read! It was enlightening to say the least, as I don't normally think about autonomous weapons on a daily basis, even though the era of robots is rapidly approaching. My main criticism is that it's very technical, which I suppose is good if you are fascinated by the nitty-gritty of autonomous weapons and things like feedback loops. However, I wa ...more
Jaka Tomc
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Autonomous weapons are no longer a matter of science fiction. They are among us and what's even more frightening, some of them can be bought relatively cheap or built quite easily.

Army of None is not just facts and figures. It's a tale about a world we live in. What we make of it is completely in our hands. For now.
Yu Han
Jan 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-books
Rather technical overview of autonomous weapons. Mentions many different weapon systems that lie along the spectrum of autonomy to give a good idea on how broad the topic can be. Would hope for it to cover autonomous weapons on a more moral, ethical, and philosophical perspective.
Interesting but repetitive.
Zhou Fang
I listened to this on audiobook. This is a comprehensive review of the history and important issues surrounding autonomous weapons and artificial intelligence. While the subject is interesting, this book is quite a trudge to get through and reads like a textbook. The book could have been shorter with focus on a few key themes. Instead, it read like a fact sheet. Overall, I do think that the issue is important and this book gives clarity to some of the moral and technical dilemmas that military p ...more
Jim Robles
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Four stars! A thoughtful treatment of one of the issues of our time.

"Emergent coordination is the most decentralized approach and is how flocks of birds, colonies of insects, and mobs of people work" (19).

"In the real world, machine autonomy doesn't require a magical of free will or a soul. Autonomy is simply the ability for a machine to perform a task or function on its own" (27).

"'The only way we would go down that path, I think, is if it turns out our adversaries and it turns out that we are
Sep 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Decent book. Repetitive at times but then definitely some great chapters. The parts on AI are well written. I don’t have a keen interest in war so I found those parts hard to read, but sometimes intriguing.
Dennis Murphy
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War by Paul Scharre is a frightening book. It is also probably one of the more important books I have come across. Since I was very young, I have been fascinated by the notion of robots and automation in war. Probably my first exposure to the subject was either from the Terminator, Alien, or Gundam Wing. [Space Odyssey, War Games, and an episode of the twilight zone that involved playing chess on Mars were a little later, probably early teens]. ...more
Scott J Pearson
This book, written by a non-technologist with extensive military experience, describes the intersection of artificial intelligence with United States military affairs. It uses terms like “autonomy” and “semi-autonomy” extensively. Autonomous weapons are weapons that can identify their own targets. Semi-autonomous weapons can track pre-identified targets (that is, targets previously identified by humans). Semi-autonomous weapons are currently in use; no autonomous weapons are known to be in use.

Jonathan Mckay

The first half of strong with a history of autonomous weapons, and a great taxonomy of the different types of autonomy, hinting at how the lines are both more blurry and more historic than I expected.

With a strong setup, I was hoping for a cogent analysis of how the potential for increased autonomy via ML could change the economics or reality of warfare, instead the author gives a regurgitation of sci-fi tropes and overwrought philosophizing about the morality of autonomous weapon
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book reads like an encyclopedia - a laundry list of terminology and acronyms interspersed with platitudes on what constitutes human control. Army nerds might like all the detail, but the actual meat around what this all means for humanity tactically and psychologically is very thin. Lots of missed opportunities to make this content more relatable to people who aren't military buffs. This book is *long* and would be better suited as your run of the mill 10min Medium thinkpiece.
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Tech pioneer, founder of Microsoft, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and author Bill Gates is a serious reader...
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“Machines can do many things, but they cannot create meaning. They cannot answer these questions for us. Machines cannot tell us what we value, what choices we should make. The world we are creating is one that will have intelligent machines in it, but it is not for them. It is a world for us.” 1 likes
“Isaac Asimov created the now-iconic Three Laws of Robotics to govern robots in his stories: 1 A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2 A robot must obey orders given by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law. 3 A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.” 0 likes
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