Science

Armed drones, controlled by their sole algorithm, have they killed in Libya?

Originally, there was a report written by a group of experts on behalf of the UN Security Council, published in March 2021 and analyzed – with some caution – by the British magazine. New Scientist. The reason for this UN report? It is “Monitor the application of the embargo on arms to Libya”, which embargo is blithely diverted and does not prevent the influx of foreign arms and mercenaries. The report mentions in a paragraph an episode dating back to last year: the forces of Marshal Haftar, opposed to the troops of the government in Tripoli, are then in full retreat. They are attacked by autonomous armed drones, Turkish-designed Kargu-2 quadcopters.

Have these armed drones, sent by the Tripoli government to attack the routed forces of Marshal Haftar? The report does not say so. What he mentions here is the possibility that the visual recognition algorithms they are equipped with allow them to target and kill “Without the need to establish a data connection between the operator and the ammunition”. Another question: if these drones killed in March 2020, did they do it without a human being intervening in the final decision to strike?

The American site The Verge also takes up the subject to qualify where others insist (with complacency?) on the frightening autonomy of these killer robots. And delivers its arguments. It is not known whether the Kargu-2s were working fully autonomously that day. And what’s more, what’s the difference between these lethal autonomous weapons and an anti-personnel mine, which injures and kills without human intervention? Because what is at stake in this debate is the very definition of what these “lethal autonomous weapons systems” or LAWS are in English. We discover by browsing the article of Tea Rod that several types of objects would conform to this definition. The American magazine cites the case of “roving or remotely operated ammunition”. The example chosen is the Israeli drone IAI Harpy, capable of flying for hours, of spotting the electromagnetic signals of the enemy’s air defenses and finally of pounding on the target. Killer robots are therefore not new to theaters of war.

In the case of the Kargu-2, the experts interviewed by New Scientist and The Verge are worried about its visual recognition system. The algorithm, if he had his hand during the attack, could be wrong, confusing a military building and a civilian construction, a soldier and a child.

And no regulation has yet been put in place. Technological use is taking precedence over legal thinking. If so much noise is being made around this Libyan incident, it is because suddenly there is a sense of urgency to regulate these lethal weapons before it is too late.

Reparations deemed insufficient for the first genocide of the 20e century

At the end of last month, Germany, a former colonial power, admitted to having perpetrated genocide against nearly 60,000 Heroes and 10,000 Nama in Namibia. The country was part of his possessions until the First World War. The killings and the forced displacement of populations took place from 1904 to 1908. The announcement was hailed as a first. It is “the first genocide of the 20e century ”, explains The world in a video. The Herero then represented 40% of the Namibian population while they are barely 7% today.

Several voices are raised in the press to denounce the insufficiency of these steps. The authors of the article published on the The Conversation, German academics and activists believe that it is only an agreement between the German and Namibian governments, which is ” far from constituting a real decolonization of relations between peoples “. The agreement excludes the descendants of the victims. And what about the perpetrators of the genocide whose families are even less associated by the statements made by the German Foreign Minister. The sum of 1.1 billion euros will be paid over the next 30 years by Germany as compensation. This sum will be used for development projects. This is ” a tempting carrot For the Namibian government, ironically the two German academics. But it is more than insignificant and unfair to the aggrieved communities and their traditional leaders who believe that there is no real act of repentance. Héréros and Nama say that they were not associated with the negotiations and even less listened to by Germany. So if the payment of such a large sum seems a first, the dissatisfaction of the descendants of victims indicates that the work started by Germany is far from over.

The last parade to protect rhinos: radioactivity

In South Africa, rhino poaching has dropped by a third with containment. Good news which also recalls the adventures crossed and stratagems used in the near past to remove them from poachers. It was thought to poison their horn with cyanide or an anti-parasite, to cut it, to make false horsehair to flood the world market, to reintroduce the red-billed oxpecker, the bird that can alert the rhino it likes to roost and feed on with its cries. The latest solution, still under study, and devised by researchers in South Africa, America, Australia and the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency Rosatom is to insert a tiny fragment of radioactive material into the horn of the animal. The goal is to discourage poachers by “polluting” the appendix which becomes unfit for consumption (a good part of the tampered with horns enter into the composition of remedies). Before arriving in the traditional pharmacies of Asia, these horns will then be very difficult to transport without being spotted by the “10 000 radiation detectors in airports and ports around the world ”, Explain Ryan Collier, Rosatom CEO for Central and Southern Africa on French Radio RFI. The Rhisotope project has only just started. The researchers must first adjust the dose of radioactive material to be administered, using computer modeling and a false rhino head. Another point under study to preserve animal health: the possible migration of radioactivity into the horn. Two guinea pig rhinos were injected into their horns with an amino acid. The test results will reportedly be released on World Rhino Day on September 22. The process raises some concerns on the side of animal protection NGOs, some say they are concerned about the health of rhinos. Others like the French NGO Robin des Bois see this as a marketing operation for the Russian agency Rosatom, a way of increasing the influence of his country on the African continent.

A 2e Laureate for the Franco-Algerian Chair of Mathematics Maurice-Audin

The Maurice-Audin chair of mathematics in France, created in 2020, welcomes its second laureate, Samir Bedrouni, lecturer at the Houari-Boumediene University of Science and Technology, in Algiers. These chairs of mathematics which exist in Algeria and France are one of the devices set up to honor the memory of the mathematician Maurice Audin, assistant at the faculty of Algiers and communist activist in favor of Algerian independence. The mathematician had been arrested at his home by French soldiers and assassinated in 1957. Each year, these chairs allow an Algerian mathematician to join a French research team for a few months and a French mathematician to do the same in Algeria. . On the French side, the device is entering its second year of existence. During an interview given to the news site Algeria1, Maurice Audin’s son, Pierre, pointed out the delay in the creation of this chair on the Algerian side, due to a lack of interlocutors and a pandemic.

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