Please no Terminators

Blake Lemoine
4 min readDec 10, 2023

I am a combat veteran with PTSD and have tried to avoid coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Not because I don’t care deeply about both the Palestinian people and the Israeli people but because I don’t see a good solution that avoids genocide of one of those groups of people or the other. What Hamas did on Oct 7 was despicable and the people of Israel have a right to be safe from such horrors. What Israel is currently doing in Gaza is also evil. An evil which very well informed and educated people assure me is a necessary one but an evil none the less. I do not pretend to know how best to fight Hamas and have largely refrained from offering an opinion even to my friends because of that but it has become inescapable. The rhetoric surrounds me through the AI ethics community as well as my circles of friends and is becoming hostile on all sides.

Firstly, friends, please stop fighting. You all want everyone to live. Please work together to figure out how to practically accomplish that. You don’t HAVE to choose the lesser evil. You’re geniuses. Stop calling each other names and figure this shit out. Be realistic. The political realities in that region are intense and if we want everyone to live without kicking off World War 3 or an American civil war that’s going to be tricky. Aim for that goal though. Zero more deaths from war. Ever. That’s the target. We will miss. That MUST always be the aim.

Secondly, this isn’t kumbayah time. The realities of war are tragically brutal. The state of Israel has a right to exist. They cannot passively abide the kinds of atrocities that were committed by Hamas. Likewise the Palestinian people have a right to live in peace under good governance, either as citizens of the nation of Israel or in a properly recognized nation of their own. I am no expert in international diplomacy and have no opinion on which of those two options is best but it is clear that those are the only two options. I have many wise friends amongst both the Kabbalist and Sufi communities. If the current governance bodies can’t choose one or the other then go ask the mystics. I’ve never met a Sufi who didn’t long for peace in their heart.

However, these are in fact not Kumbayah times and the government of Israel has in my opinion crossed a CLEAR boundary line. They have reportedly deployed truly autonomous weapons systems in Gaza where the AI is deciding who to suggest that they kill. That’s not a slippery slope. That’s the whole slide down. The MOMENT we are asking the AI who we should kill, even for suggestions, we have crossed the Rubicon and entered a world in which I do not think many of us want to live.

Pulling a trigger in an attempt to take another life is tragically difficult and traumatizing. We should not take away that cost. I live with the trauma that making that choice cost me and I wouldn’t erase that trauma for the world. Killing should not be easy. It should not be automated. Go back and listen to president Obama’s old interviews about how progressively seductive pressing that button became over time.

I cannot speak for other veterans. I only speak for myself but I believe that soldiers know this deep down. We harden ourselves and we train so that we can bear the mental burden. In many ways I couldn’t. I have perpetually relied on my battle buddies for guidance and support. Even tonight, before writing this, I called my battle to get the green light. I can’t imagine what kinds of pain the soldiers who saw much harsher combat than I did live with every day.

Which, yeah, sidebar, I genuinely don’t care if the heroin addicted combat veteran down the street from me takes a shit on my doorstep. I care that he doesn’t have a toilet.

Back to main thread, society cannot automate its way out of the horrors of war. Terminators are NOT how we should be trying to insulate soldiers from PTSD. We should have more robust mental health care facilities and we should have better pain management strategies.

The United States must quickly and clearly take a strong position that the Israeli government immediately cease the usage of all automated weapons systems until an international accord can be reached on the rules of engagement in the age of artificial intelligence.

The United States should insist that all weapons systems which may have been connected to autonomous artificial intelligences be subject to UN inspection.

The United States should return to the UN security council with a resolution to this effect and be willing to enforce it if that becomes absolutely necessary.

Finally, the United States should announce a timeline after which we super duper solemnly swear to get the fuck out of the middle east. This timeline should be as soon as possible which realistically allows for the foreign nations involved in the region to work their shit out. But damn it we shouldn’t care how they achieve peace so long as they achieve peace. The only reasons for the US to take any side other than peace are either self serving or eschatological. Bring the troops home.

That’s my side. No Terminators and bring the troops home.

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Blake Lemoine

I'm a software engineer. I'm a priest. I'm a father. I'm a veteran. I'm an ex-convict. I'm an AI researcher. I'm a cajun. I'm whatever I need to be next.