The Terminator is an iconic film that helped propel former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to stardom.

The movie is also a basis for discussion about the future of military weaponry, as Air Force General Paul Selva, vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, uses the film as reference in describing autonomous weaponry systems that could be developed in the next decade.

The nation’s second-highest ranking military officer believes that our adversaries may try to build completely autonomous “Terminator”-like systems that can conduct lethal operations on the battlefield.

“I don’t think it’s impossible that somebody will try to build a completely autonomous system, and I’m not talking about something like a cruise missile … or a mine that requires a human to target it and release it and it goes and finds its target,” Selva told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. when asked about such capabilities. “I’m talking about a wholly robotic system that decides whether or not, at the point of decision, it’s going to do lethal ops.”

Selva has previously dubbed debate about the implications of autonomous weapons the “‘Terminator’ conundrum,” referring to the science fiction films featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Selva said technologists have told Pentagon leaders that the capability could be developed in 10 years.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of his statements is Selva’s solution to this conundrum:

He also threw his support behind the idea of a treaty or global convention against the creation of wholly autonomous systems that can operate without a man in the loop controlling it, saying: “I do think we need to examine the bodies of law and convention that might constrain anyone in the world from building that kind of a system. … I think we have to have something.”

I am no military expert. However, given the recent track record of international treaty successes and the fact pizza can now be delivered by drones, I  suggest that preparing for the inevitable “Rise of the Terminators” would be prudent!

The Defense Science Board’s recently issued “Autonomy” report highlights the need for establishing countermeasures to this weaponry.

“It should not be a surprise when adversaries employ autonomy against U.S. forces. Preparing now for this inevitable adversary use of autonomy is imperative,” the report says.

The report also says that the U.S. should expect and plan for other countries to not have the same high moral standard as America, allowing autonomous platforms to make lethal decisions.

“Despite understanding that autonomy used against U.S. forces provides both a threat and an opportunity, DoD capabilities and knowledge in this area are fragmented, often compartmented, and provide little opportunity to benefit from both offensive and defensive technologies, techniques and programs,” the report says.

Our military and the industries that support it have done a tremendous job with their assigned missions. Here’s to hoping they can develop the measures needed to respond to “Terminators.”

(Featured image via Twitter).