I was thinking of writing a story where a bipedal walker has the tactical, mechanical, and autonomy of a real person. Would it be viable to use an base ai that has already learned and trained to pilot the mech?

First option: So as time goes on, the ai that survived is copied with its new knowledge and would be used in more mechs. Then you would repeat the process. Does that negate a need for most human operators? Would you eventually get a bipedal walker that could assess any situation and formulate a solution faster than a human could, or dare I say, oust humans in combat overall?

Compared to a human that has gone through a lot of training to pilot this mech, and just passes on the training to another pilot, making the other pilot better and better. The human has full situational awareness, always calls the shots, and is in control of the mech.

Or a mech that just has two ai's, a moral ai and the mechanical ai. These two operating systems would work in cohesion, the moral ai would decide what would be right or wrong. The mechanical ai does its job and keeps the mech on task and running.No adaptation, just a cookie cutter system that eventually is upgraded

Lets say these bipedal walkers are human like in appearance, with two arms and legs and the torse and head. About 12 feet tall and 12 feet wide if it was in a t-pose.

  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "base" AI? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Aug 4 '18 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ like a original groundwork. like the ai already knows how to walk, run, jump, speak, grab, everything it should know already. Especially some combat training in it $\endgroup$ Aug 4 '18 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ What is the alternative to the first question? The question as i understand it only makes sense if you want to know the best out of two or more options $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Aug 4 '18 at 11:53
  • $\begingroup$ lets say to a normal human that already has the training. I'll edit it to show options and alternatives as your question shows a very good point $\endgroup$ Aug 4 '18 at 11:55
  • $\begingroup$ The movie Stealth is necessary research. $\endgroup$ Aug 4 '18 at 16:36

Modern-Day AI

If you're talking about AI as it exists today in the form of neural networks, yes, you could theoretically hook one up to a combat mech and "train" it over the course of thousands of combats and thousands of mech suits. However, such a process would be extremely time-consuming and resource-consuming.

One thing to consider with such an approach is: What are you optimizing it to do? Simply survive the combat? That could very well train the AI to run away or hide for as long as possible. Destroy the enemy? Such an AI may take unwarranted risks that clearly will result in heavy damage to itself that a human would know to avoid. It's not an insurmountable problem, but you have to consider what the objective is. Ultimately neural networks need a quantifiable objective, something they can put a number to and say "Subject 10943 performed better than subject 10942, and therefore is superior and will be used for future training."

Future AI

In contrast, you may be talking about AI similar to Cortana from the Halo series, something that is capable of making independent decisions and weighing the consequences and possible outcomes of said decision in real-world terms, not just assigning numbers to everything and picking the highest one.

If this is the case, then yes you could! Simply train it as you would a human.

Other advantages

Some other advantages computers (which is all an AI is) have over humans are:

  • The ability to multitask
  • The ability to perform many calculations extremely quickly
  • The lack of requirement of food, water, oxygen, and sleep

There are some disadvantages, however:

  • The need for a power source, be it nuclear, solar (although solar is very slow), a conventional battery, etc.
  • Lack of emotion (although this may be an advantage)
  • Expensive to create and maintain
  • I'm assuming you've solved the "computers don't like water" problem by now
  • They follow an absolute set of rules, whereas humans follow rules that they can break if they feel it is required. Ultimately humans have a, well, human quality to their decision-making that you can't recreate with machines. Unless of course, you can, because you're the writer.


Ultimately, you can do whatever you want because you're the writer. I would imagine that replacing human soldiers with robots is something that a future government would look into, since it's already happening today with other fields. Factory work, fast food cashiers, etc.


What is an AI?

I ask because, in situations like this, the blurryness of the line is actually quite a useful detail. To explain the blurryness, I invoke the Ship of Theseus

First, suppose that the famous ship sailed by the hero Theseus in a great battle has been kept in a harbour as a museum piece. As the years go by some of the wooden parts begin to rot and are replaced by new ones. After a century or so, all of the parts have been replaced. Is the "restored" ship still the same object as the original?

Second, suppose that each of the removed pieces were stored in a warehouse, and after the century, technology develops to cure their rotting and enable them to be put back together to make a ship. Is this "reconstructed" ship the original ship? And if so, is the restored ship in the harbour still the original ship too?

This is an age old philosophical question, which has no clear answers. However, the second case is remarkably similar to yours. You're basically packaging up the successful AIs, and rebuilding them in the harbor to send out to sea.

The interesting part of this is that it suggests that the part which matters never gets destroyed. It is always being relayed back. As such, it is actually more effective to think of this as one giant gestalt being, rather than an individual AI per mecha. The power is in that it can sacrifice a mecha and learn something about how the enemy fights.

Now what's really interesting to me is that militarizes do the same thing. One of the reasons stated for why the allies won the Pacific theater of WWII was that the Japanese would send their finest pilots out to do combat with the US. The US would rotate our finest pilots back to train up a new generation. As such, our ability to transfer knowledge was better than theirs, and in the long run the US bled down Japan's seasoned pilots and asserted air dominance.

Also of interest is the strange concept known as Espirit de Corps. This spirit is something which soldiers hold in high regard is something that is trained into them and transferred from one generation to the next. It holds onto what soldiers would consider to be the indispensable and ineffable essence which lets one excel at combat. In my opinion, this is very close in nature to what you transfer back with your AIs. You want to develop the AI equivalent of the essence of how to fight.

This is not easy, and there's lots of ways this can go wrong. But it at least frames the war in a way which lets us study how you could go about building the war.

Your opponent is not fighting a bunch of individual mecha. Your opponent is fighting a gestalt AI. How does this AI work? The devil is in the details. Your AIs have the capability to learn quickly, transferring knowledge from one mecha to another faster than humans can. But how do we know that knowledge is good? Such an army runs the risk of an opponent attacking your gestalt AI rather than the mecha. If they can "convince" the enemy mecha to all learn something uniformly, that can be used to create a weakness that can strike the entire army all at once. With humans this is harder, because we aren't uniform. We do things a little differently, so there's rarely one glaring weakness in every unit. All an opponent needs to do is study how the AI transfers knowledge, and try to exploit the little details of that.

If you try to make the AIs more unique, then you start to run into a similar issue that humans do: you can't pass information easily between AIs. You end up with unique individual AIs, each with their own personality. This ends up with a different balance. Information sharing is slowed, but you still have the long term learning process.

Now the question becomes "what do we learn?" As mentioned in other answers, one of the questions for all AIs is what is their goal function. Surprisingly, in war we find that the goals are not as obvious as we might think. There's the so called Pyrrhic victory, where one wins the battle but loses the war. The highest level goals of war are never as simple as they seem in the movies. Teaching an AI to accomplish these goals may be a very difficult challenge indeed.

Which points out a very common pattern in war: a split between strategy and tactics. One might trust AIs, born and reborn every time, to become masters of tactics while other entities (such as humans) handle the strategies to use these tactics. We see this in the division of labor in canine corps, where the dog is a master tactician and the human is permitted to focus more on the strategy of how to use the dog wisely. We also see a similar structure in the division between enlisted and officer corps, though the divisions are murkier here because all humans can do both strategy and tactics. But we do see a strong tendency to have an enlisted corps which excels more at tactics and an officer corps which excels more at strategy.

Which, interestingly enough, does indeed tend to take information back from the front lines and teach it to the next generation rather well. The result is not as extreme as being able to clone an individual who dies on the battlefield, but the process of extracting information from the battlefield is a well respected aspect of warfare which we do today.

So, in the end, the devil is in the details. You could build a world where AIs are strong enough to beat out all humans. You can build a world where AIs are less effective than humans. You can build a world where a mixture of both is necessary to excel. It all depends on how you construct your AIs, and to date we don't have any information as to how that would work. AI research just isn't that far advanced.

However, as a closing, I'd like to point out the game of Chess. Chess was always a game of warfare, so lessons we learn from Chess may reasonably be applied to the art of war. For a long time humans were the superior Chess player. In fact, for decades it was said that no computer would ever beat a human at chess. Then they started beating a few novices. Then intermediates. In the '90s, we finally saw Deep Blue beat Kasparov, the highest ranked player in the world. Nowdays, computers regularly beat humans with one virtual hand tied behind their back (such as having to host the engine on a laptop with limited endgame tables). Computers have supplanted humans as the masters of this game of warfare.

Or have they? Kasparov minted a new class of chess players in a bracket called Advanced Chess. In Advanced Chess, players may be human, computer or human-computer teams. As it turns out, the human-computer teams utterly dominate the pure human or pure computer team. The combined approach of a human's heuristic thinking with the computer's ability to completely analyze a situation wins out every time.

And, interestingly enough, if we look at how our bodies work, we see a similar pattern where our brains may provide the heuristics as to where to move, but it is the muscles which are the masters of the best way to actually go about accomplishing those goals, and acquiring the resources (such as sugars and proteins) required to do so again and again.

Food for thought.


We don't know, since it's never been done, but... remember that AI is just "programs + data running on computers".

Thus it's perfectly reasonable for a mecha factory to have developed an AI that knows how to perform all the basic (or even advanced) functions needed for that model of mecha and to load it into every new mecha that comes off the assembly line just as software is loaded onto every car that comes off the assembly line.

EDIT: since you've changed the question, "yes" AI could very easily surpass humans in combat, since computers are so much faster than humans. You just need to handwave away all the (current) impracticalities of building walkers.


If I understand your question you want some kind of AI that is capable of learning and evolving constantly.

You would probably want an AI that utilizes a neural network. It's essentially a simulation of how a brain works. The AI has a set of neurons and it takes input from the world and creates pathways that lead to desirable outcomes if you train it well enough. Our brains work by making connections between neurons to perform actions like moving your arm or to decode our senses and think in general.


Easy, Multi-tasking

No matter how well trained a human is they can only do 1 complex task at a time, however, an AI would be able to target and shoot multiple objects at the same time whilst keeping track of multiple enemies.

It could have a full 360 array of cameras on the head which means it would have insane spacial awareness.

It would also have better reflexes depending on the CPU and GPU advances in your universe.

Also if it had an inbuilt rangefinder/targeting mechanism it would be able to use these far more efficiently. E.g. if it fired a missile it could guide the missile whilst shooting at enemies.


This is much like asking what would combat against "real" Transformers look like.

For those of you who have not seen these wonderfully silly movies, Transformers are AI embodied in giant robot bodies (i.e. mecha), but capable of transforming into cars and other seemingly "ordinary" objects in order to move about without attracting attention.

In a "real" battle, the Transformer has multispectral sensors, electromechanical servos to manipulate weapons and equipment and an AI brain running thousands to millions of times faster than a human brain. The battle would essentially have the Transformer pick a suitable firing position based on terrain analysis and known patterns of enemy behaviour, then gun down enemy human soldiers with a single shot to a vulnerable area. An outside observer would see a sudden blur of motion, then hear what sounds like an irregular burst of machine-gun fire (single shots at each target with very high probabilities of a kill) followed by another blur of motion as the Transformer exfiltrates the position. Rinse and repeat with progressively larger weapons as tanks, attack helicopters, warships and other modern weapons are brought into the fray.

Against larger and more organized foes, multiple AI combat units would network together in order to ensure complete overlap of fire and observation.

Indeed, there are only two major weaknesses to the OP.

  1. Human or bipedal mecha are a very non optimal form factor for fighting machines: robot tanks, helicopters and self propelled artillery (and supporting logistics robots) make far more sense.

  2. As noted in another answer, there must be a very clearly defined and articulated purpose programmed into the robots. A psychopathic killing machine will likely create far more enemies than it can kill, creating all kinds of political issues which will derail or paralyze the war effort, and force enemies to engage in other forms of warfare which robotic devices are not equipped to counter.

AI fighting platforms may not even resemble weapons as we understand them. A swarm of small flying machines ranging from sparrow to hornet size might actually be the optimum form factor, and attacks could be tightly focused towards killing individual targets, interfering with particular electronic circuits or even descending like a cloud of locusts and "eating" important crops.

Because it is an AI, it can gather and interpret data far faster and in far more detail than even a staff of humans, and execute tasks far faster and with fewer errors. It will still have to contend with "friction" and the "fog of war", and ultimately enemy AI which will be capable of fighting on more even terms.


An AI is, by its very nature, constrained to the rules under which it operates; a human is not. If your AI is trained to deal with other mecha, vehicles and artillery, it is vulnerable to mines, pit traps and IEDs.

Whatever the designers' imagination can come up with, there will always be someone who comes up with something they haven't thought of. Plug that into the next version, and someone will come up with something else.

"...oust humans in combat overall", not possible, except on a transient basis.


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