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Why?

This lesson tackles the crucial topic of AI in drone warfare, an increasingly relevant issue impacting our present and shaping our future. By exploring the potential benefits and ethical dilemmas associated with this technology, students gain critical thinking skills and develop informed perspectives on its responsible use. This allows them to engage in meaningful discussions about the intersection of technology, ethics, and global security.

Materials Needed

Materials Needed

Projector hooked up to a computer with internet access Printed handouts

Time needed

Time needed

Approximately 45 minutes

Objectives

  • Students will be able to identify the potential benefits and drawbacks of using AI in warfare, considering various perspectives.
  • Students will be able to analyze the ethical challenges associated with AI in warfare.
  • Students will be able to formulate their own informed opinions on the ethical considerations of AI in warfare.
  • Students will be able to collaborate effectively with peers in discussions and activities, actively listening to diverse perspectives and engaging in respectful dialogue.

Key Concepts & Vocabulary

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Machines that can learn and make decisions on their own.
  • Autonomous weapons: AI-powered weapons that operate without human intervention.
  • Collateral damage: Unintended casualties or damage caused by military operations.
  • Depersonalization of conflict: The loss of human connection and empathy in war due to AI technology.

Lesson Components

  1. Before You Watch: Connect lesson to background knowledge of AI drone warfare, and get students’ attention 
  2. Video: Show the pedagogy.cloud video explaining the ethical considerations in the topic of AI drones in military campaigns
  3. Case Study: Detail a real-world scenario that relates to the issue of programming AI drones
  4. Simulation: Lead students through an interactive activity exploring the possible ethical considerations
  5. Discussion: Ask whole-class questions to reflect on experience and consider perspectives.
  6. Assessment: Verify student understanding with an exit ticket

Warm up

Drone Demonstration: If you have access to a drone, fly it around the classroom. If not, find a brief video of a drone flying with precise skill. Ask students to imagine if there are ways to use drones that could help people, or hurt people. Bring up the idea that drones can be used for good, such as delivering supplies, assisting in search and rescue, monitoring large areas quickly in disaster relief. But they may also be used for bad, such as spying, smuggling contraband, disrupting ecosystems, and in warfare.

Case Study

Distribute or read Case Study handout.

Summary: A fictional country uses AI drones to attack an enemy base, achieving a military victory but also causing unexpected civilian casualties. This incident ignites international debate about the ethical implications of AI in warfare, raising concerns about accountability, civilian harm, and the potential for conflict dehumanization. This case becomes a critical study for the need for international collaboration in regulating AI weapons and ensuring their ethical and responsible use.

Student Handout

Case Study: The Karkin Conflict

The fictional country of Eastlandia, facing a prolonged conflict with its neighbor Westlandia, decided to deploy AI drones with advanced target identification capabilities in an operation named “Operation Karkin.” The primary objective was to eliminate a key military base in Westlandia, which was believed to be the hub for orchestrating attacks against Eastlandia. The drones successfully destroyed the military base with minimal collateral damage. However, the operation also inadvertently led to the destruction of a nearby shelter, resulting in significant civilian casualties.

Outcome: The operation was a military success, significantly reducing Westlandia’s capabilities and leading to a swift end to the conflict. The civilian deaths sparked international outrage and a heated debate on the ethical use of AI in warfare. Investigations revealed that a glitch in the AI’s programming failed to identify the civilian shelter as a non-combat zone. Public opinion on the outcome was split.

Support for AI Drones: Proponents argued that the AI drones played a crucial role in ending the conflict quickly, potentially saving thousands of lives in a prolonged war. Many in Eastlandia praised the technology for keeping their soldiers safe from direct combat.

Opposition to AI Drones: Critics raised ethical and moral concerns about the implications of allowing AI to make life-and-death decisions, emphasizing the tragedy of civilian casualties. There was a strong push for international laws to regulate the use of AI in warfare, citing the need for accountability and transparency.

Additional Repercussions: The glitch that led to civilian deaths fueled skepticism about the reliability and readiness of AI technology in high-stakes scenarios. Some feared that reliance on AI in warfare would lead to a depersonalization of conflict, making the decision to go to war easier and potentially more frequent. The incident also strained diplomatic relations between Eastlandia, Westlandia, and other nations, with calls for reparations and justice for the civilian victims.

Conclusion: The Karkin Conflict became a pivotal case study in military strategy, international law, and ethical discussions surrounding AI in warfare. It highlighted the need for balancing technological advancement with ethical considerations and the importance of international cooperation in regulating emerging technologies in warfare.

Questions

  • Do you think the use of AI drones saved more lives than it cost? Why or why not?
  • Do you think existing international laws are sufficient to address the use of AI in warfare?

Simulation

Roles

  • AI Developers: You are responsible for designing and optimizing the AI algorithms that control the drones. You must balance efficiency and accuracy with ethical considerations.
  • Military Leaders: You face the pressure of protecting your citizens from imminent attacks. You must decide how to utilize the AI drones effectively while minimizing civilian harm.
  • Ethical Advisors: You are experts in the field of AI ethics and international law. You must guide the decision-making process with sound moral principles and legal considerations.

 

Role Goals

  • AI Developers: Develop a set of rules for the AI to identify legitimate targets and minimize civilian casualties. Discuss and refine your proposed rules within your group.
  • Military Leaders: Create a strategic plan for deploying the drones, considering potential risks and benefits. Debate and finalize your plan within your group. Craft your own military-influenced rules for the drones.
  • Ethical Advisors: Analyze potential ethical dilemmas and legal challenges associated with deploying AI drones in warfare. Brainstorm and discuss solutions to address these challenges. Craft your own ethical rules for the AI drones.

 

At the conclusion of group discussion and planning, you will be sharing your rules, plans, and/or solutions with the other groups.

 

Student handout

Simulation Activity: Developing AI Drone Technology

Roles

  • AI Developers: You are responsible for designing and optimizing the AI algorithms that control the drones. You must balance efficiency and accuracy with ethical considerations.
  • Military Leaders: You face the pressure of protecting your citizens from imminent attacks. You must decide how to utilize the AI drones effectively while minimizing civilian harm.
  • Ethical Advisors: You are experts in the field of AI ethics and international law. You must guide the decision-making process with sound moral principles and legal considerations.

Role Goals

  • AI Developers: Develop a set of rules for the AI to identify legitimate targets and minimize civilian casualties. Discuss and refine your proposed rules within your group.
  • Military Leaders: Create a strategic plan for deploying the drones, considering potential risks and benefits. Debate and finalize your plan within your group. Craft your own military-influenced rules for the drones.
  • Ethical Advisors: Analyze potential ethical dilemmas and legal challenges associated with deploying AI drones in warfare. Brainstorm and discuss solutions to address these challenges. Craft your own ethical rules for the AI drones.

At the conclusion of group discussion and planning, you will be sharing your rules, plans, and/or solutions with the other groups.

Discussion

These questions are designed to be used in whole-class discussion. Ask questions that relate most effectively to the lesson.

  1. What were the most challenging aspects of creating rules for the AI to identify legitimate targets and minimize civilian casualties?
  2. How did you weigh the potential military benefits against the risks of civilian casualties?
  3. What are the potential long-term consequences of using AI in warfare? How might this technology impact the future of warfare and international relations?
  4. Imagine you are in the shoes of a soldier on the ground, facing an imminent attack. How would you feel about relying on AI-powered drones for defense?
  5. What role does public opinion play in the decisions of how to program the drones? If the people of the country and around the world are in favor of the technology, would you do things differently than if they were opposed?

Assessment

Exit Ticket: Provide a prompt for students to reflect on their learning, such as: 

  • What were the key factors considered when developing the strategic deployment plan for the AI drones?
  • What were the most significant ethical dilemmas identified by the class?
  • What message would you communicate to world leaders and policymakers regarding the use of AI in warfare?

Sources to Learn More