ROME — The ITEC conference is a confluence of technology and military, where one expects to see big screens, high-res graphics and fake weapons. It hardly seems like the place for a discussion on morality. Yet that’s just what happened during the opening keynote session on Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. Carlo Magrassi, deputy commander of the Italian Air Force Operational Forces Command, emphasized the growing number of systems where human operators are outside of the loop of technology, supervising, rather than directly in the loop. This is particularly true with systems such as UAVs, which are growing increasingly autonomous.
“We need people to be trained to be on the loop,” he said, noting a need for training operators to handle more and more complex situations. With an increased complexity level, however, operators may lose some level of accountability or awareness of the repercussions of their actions, he said.
Maj. Gen. David Elmo, deputy chief of staff for mobilization and reserve affairs for U.S. Army Europe, noted that every innovation has the potential to take the operator one step away from the reality of pulling the trigger. He said it is essential to impress upon trainees the importance of moral decisions, and draw a line between simulations that can seem like mere games and the reality of life or death actions.
“It’s not just ‘game over,’” he said. “It’s ‘life over.’”