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Newsgroups: comp.risks
X-issue: 10.45
Date: Wed, 26 Sep 90 10:57 EST
Subject: Re: Expert systems in combat

Various people have commented on Vincennes incident without noting the
applicable international law.  This law, which has counterparts running back
over a century, places the responsibility for identification upon the
*CIVILIAN*.  The military is permitted to presume hostile intent from all
unidentified people or things in a combat area.  The civilians must demonstrate
by words and actions that they are non-combatant.  Transponder codes are
explicitly listed as not sufficient.

In the particular case of the Vincennes, the military did comply with the law
by issuing a challenge and demand for course change.  Unfortunately the
aircraft ignored this challenge (probably because it was to ``unidentified
aircraft'' and in nautical phraseology).  And for these reasons there has been
no real effort to condemn the action in any court of international law.

This is not to say that problems and errors did not occur.  One problem that an
expert system might have resolved would be a more universal and internationally
understandable challenge terminology.  It took the shooting down of two
airliners by the Soviets to force general installation of mutually usable
radios in both military and civilian aircraft.  This accident reveals that
despite mutually usable radios, there remain significant communications
difficulties.  (Not the original mentioned use for expert systems, but much
easier and well within the present state of the art.)

The other risk that this shows is the danger of fundamental ignorance of
overall environment.  International law and treaties do exist, and do matter,
but both within this group and within the developers of the expert systems
there is profound ignorance of these rules.  When the rules are in software or
hardware what do you do when treaties change?

R Horn

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