Feedback Loops and Fundamental Flaws in Autonomous Warships

War on the Rocks – As the U.S. Navy pivots to autonomous technologies for its future hybrid fleet of crewed and uncrewed ships, defense professionals and military officers (inspired in no small part by the novels Ghost Fleet and 2034) are keenly aware that every automated system is at risk of intrusion. The focus on cyber attacks, however, obscures a more fundamental cyber reliability problem. When computers replace people in the role of monitoring engineering systems, identifying equipment failures becomes more difficult. Leaving those problems unfixed makes vessels fail earlier, and fixing them puts ships and people at risk. In short, automated systems can introduce system-wide vulnerability even if nobody hacks them.