Sunday, November 15, 2015

Killer Robot Update

Robots With The Ability To Make Decisions

In Britain, a May 27, 2015, article in the Telegraph reported an academic has warned that killer robots which being developed by the U.S. military will leave humans utterly defenseless. Make no mistake progress is being made by several countries to move in the direction of producing a slew of these weapons that can perform many different functions. About 28 minutes into the Democratic debate on November 14th Hillary Clinton talked about recently revealed Russian plans for a drone submarine with nuclear tactical capability. While I have written on the subject before an occasional "Killer Robot Update" has merit. This subject should not be limited to drones, killer robots, and a slew of other ugly possibilities. Blame it on an imagination gone wild or a distrust of those with too much power. Unfortunately, more recent revelations about the American government spying on us, our friends, and the leaders of our allies across the world does little to calm my concerns. We must take note that technology is quickly blurring the line between drones and robots at the same time that the killing power of these machines is being ramped up, we should be afraid! To say these machines have the potential to become formidable and a danger in the wrong hands is an understatement.

Let it be clear, killer robot-drones are no longer the stuff of science fiction and the technology to make such weapons exist today. The U.S. Navy’s X-47B, a Northrop Grumman-developed drone, has already accomplished the task of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier entirely on its own, it is only a short step to add missiles to its weapons bay. The unmanned plane is capable of supersonic twists and turns with a G-force that no human being could manage, and could take autonomous armed combat to a whole new level. In South Korea, several years ago a Samsung subsidiary designed a stationary robot sentry that sits along the demilitarized zone and can identify and fire at a target on its own. It’s linked up with a human operator for now. The website --- ---goes even further when describing the advancements of these killer robots with automatic rifles and states they could be on the battlefield in the next 5 years. An October 18th article by Allen McDuffee says Robots armed with automatic weapons, anti-tank missiles, and even grenade launchers are marching, er, rolling ever closer to the battlefield now that they’ve shown they can actually hit what they’re supposed to.
Killer Robots Like Swords Stand Ready To  Kill

May I suggest the possibility this subject has been largely kept off the radar of the American people by those wanting our government to go "all in" on this technological arms race. People under the impression we can come out on top are often driven by the fear it is only a matter of time before it happens anyway. Please note, a preemptive weapons ban is not unprecedented. In 1995, parties to the UN’s Convention on Conventional Weapons added a protocol banning blinding lasers. Leading up to that ban, the U.S. was against it but after considering the potential for mass proliferation the U.S. changed its stance and helped generate support for the measure. Ultimately, this is a call to action and suggests a ban on "offensive autonomous weapons."  Those pushing such an agenda cite similar international agreements on chemical and biological weapons, space nukes, and lasers that blind people. For now, the U.S. says it doesn’t support an international ban on this technology but pressure is being applied by groups like the UN.

Four robotics companies  HDT Robotics, iRobot, Northrop Grumman and QinetiQ have already run their machine gun-armed robots through a live-fire demo at Fort Benning in what has been dubbed the "Robotic Rodeo". This was to give the brass a chance to see just how viable such systems are. The Army, which issued a favorable assessment of the technology doesn’t see our armed robotic overlords as weapons taking the place of boots on the ground, but rather as combatants working alongside troops in the field. “They’re not just tools, but members of the squad. That’s the goal,” Lt. Col. Willie Smith, chief of Unmanned Ground Vehicles at Fort Benning said. Senior Army officers attending the rodeo appeared satisfied with the robots after seeing them accurately hit targets 500 feet away, and they hope to see battle ‘bots in action within five years. “We were hoping to see how they remotely control lethal weapons,” said Smith. “We were pleased with what we saw here. The technology is getting to be where it needs to be.”

It should be noted this isn’t the first time the Pentagon has played with weaponized robots, but earlier experiments proved such machines weren’t ready for prime-time after some of them moved without commands. Northrop Grumman’s CaMEL (Carry-all Mechanized Equipment Landrover) was among the armed robots on display, it can be fitted with automatic weapons, anti-tank missiles, and grenade launchers. It can run for more than 20 hours on 3.5 gallons of fuel and carry a load of 1,000 pounds. It also can produce power to charge batteries or power other systems and a hybrid engine allows the armed robot to operate very quietly on the battlefield and travel farther to provide firepower where it’s needed. “CaMEL is a multi-function platform that can quickly transform from supporting troops to protecting troops as an armed wing-man, increasing the firepower of dismounted platoon and company maneuver units,” said Phil Coker of Northrop Grumman in a statement.  

It appears Isaac Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics may have been tossed into the trash bin in mans rush to build a better killing machine. All science-fiction readers will remember these were the laws that were to be built into all machines that would keep them from ever harming a human being. It is possible that Asimov's 3 Laws of  Robotics have been overridden by Forest Gump's Law of  "Stupid Is As Stupid Does!" A half-crazed lunatic might even praise a killer robot for its performance and not hesitating when ordered to kill and slaughter unarmed women and children. No need to worry about PTS or all the costly issues and problems human soldiers present, with killer robots it all becomes about killing!

Footnote;  Your comments are welcome and encouraged. If you have time check out the archives for other posts that may be of interest to you. Three other articles about robots can be found below,

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