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The rapid proliferation of a new generation of artificial intelligence (AI)-augmented and -enabled autonomous weapon systems (AWS), most notably drones used in swarming tactics, could have a significant impact on deterrence, nuclear security, escalation and strategic stability in future warfare. James Johnson argues that emerging iterations of AWS fused with AI systems will presage a powerful interplay of increased range, accuracy, mass, coordination, intelligence and speed in a future conflict. In turn, the risk of escalatory use-them-or-lose-them situations between nuclear-armed military powers and the attendant dangers posed by the use of unreliable, unverified and unsafe AWS will increase, with potentially catastrophic strategic outcomes.
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