Flash Wars: Autonomous Weapons, AI & the Future of Armed Conflict

“Fear AI!” – “ warns Elon Musk back in 2014, joining other opinion leaders like Steve Wozniak, Noam Chomsky and Stephen Hawking in backing a petition against the development of autonomous weapons. As Vladimir Putin stated in 2017, “Whoever leads in AI, rules the world.”

Since the invasion of Ukraine, many things that seemed like science fiction have become reality. In March 2022, a Russian kamikaze drone controlled by artificial intelligence, known as a ZALA KYP was shot down in Kiev. In response, the US supplies their own models to Ukraine. Private firms donate satellite internet and AI-surveillance software that can track corpses and looters. Russia threatens to hit the UK with an autonomous nuclear torpedo, while China watches carefully from the sidelines and emerging high-tech powers like Turkey strike deals with both sides. The AI arms race that experts had warned about for years is now real. It will not only shape the wars of the future but is also transforming the way we think about security at the “homefront”, with police and private security forces are hungry for new tech.

AI promises superiority in all weapon categories, higher efficiency and a dramatic increase of operational speed. So dramatic, in fact, that observers fear that AI-driven conflicts could escalate so quickly, that human actors will not be able to react in time. They point to scenarios from the financial markets where so called “Flash Crashes” – triggered by competing algorithms – have become frequent, but remain little understood. They see a real danger of humanity losing control over its war-machines.

‘Flash Wars’ dives into the disturbing world of autonomous weapons. We explore why it’s so hard to teach morality to an AI and think about ways that autonomous weapons could make future wars more humane. And we follower ex-hacker Alberto Pelliccione into a secret world of spy software, military contractors and cyberweapons sold by European companies to authoritarian regimes. First, there was the invention of gunpowder, then the atomic bomb. Now we find ourselves at the threshold of another dramatic escalation in the field of armed conflict.


  • Year: 2023
  • Duration: 90 & 52 mins
  • Production: Blue+Green Films
  • Director: Daniel Andrew Wunderer
  • Available Versions: ENG, FRA
  • Country of production: Austria

Related Programs

Your face is Ours : The Dangers of Facial Recognition

Clearview AI is redefining our privacy. The New York-based tech company is working to identify and compile the faces of every human being on the planet. It claims that the database will serve as a force for good, helping to solve crimes and prevent espionage. But the risks it poses are immense.

More info

Singapore: The Perfect City or Dystopian Surveillance State?

In Singapore everything is under control. There are countless restrictive rules: chewing gum, smoking in the street, jaywalking, throwing paper on the ground, talking on the subway or even walking around naked are all forbidden.

More info