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DoD slowly building robot army

Yes friends, as blatently and shamelessly pro-technology as I am, even I must admit to sometimes being afraid... yes, perhaps even terrified. While I think it's awesome that within another couple decades the draft will likely be entirely obsolete as robots will be doing the majority of the fighting, I'm very worried that the current leaders will not use this technology responsibly. It's like giving a loaded machine gun to an infant. I can easily see some future US president saying "But, but... we had to invade, how else would I get to test out my new robot army?" Lord knows, Bush has used lamer excuses in the past.

Launching a New Kind of Warfare

"But that is only the beginning. By 2015, the US Department of Defense plans that one third of its fighting strength will be composed of robots, part of a $127bn (£68bn) project known as Future Combat Systems (FCS), a transformation that is part of the largest technology project in American history."
...
"But if this is the beginning of the end of humanity's presence on the battlefield, it merits an ethical debate that the military and its weapons designers are shying away from. Neither of the documents detailing the US military robot plans, for example, mentions the Geneva Convention which sets out the treatment in wartime of the sick, wounded, civilians and prisoners."
...
"There is a difference between soldiers and soldiers in the movies. On the battlefield, half of the soldiers don't aim their weapons at people because they don't want to hurt them or they don't want to give them cause to hurt them. The robots that are under development can sense, direct and fire dispassionately and are being pointed by people who don't have to worry about being shot at."

I'd like to note, in case there is any confusion, that at this time the robots in the robot army they are building are all remote controlled (ie, they are not autonomously intelligent robots... just puppets). That is, some guy sitting in a safe room playing a video game gets to blow up enemy soliders without ever risking his own life. However, they also mention in the same article that they intend to have fully autonomous robots on the battlefield by 2035. This makes me wonder whether a.) they're assuming we'll have at least human-level AI by then, or b.) they are willing to leave split-second life and death decisions to sub-human intelligence. Hmmmm. I would say there's a decent chance of a, but not at all guaranteed... whereas b is very sketchy, although perhaps in some situations it could work.

Afterthought: Now I understand why the "Darpa Grand Challenge" starts with the word DARPA. Who else would spend so much money to encourage the development of self-driving vehicles? And speaking of Darpa Grand Challenge, since that was so successful (racing self-driving vehicles through the desert) the next one they're planning is called (Darpa) Urban Grand Challenge, racing them through real traffic in an urban environment.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
veleda
Oct. 29th, 2006 06:49 pm (UTC)
I found this on KurzweilAI.net before I read your post.. all i can really say...is wow.. it brings up some scary futuristic (in the bay way) images.
lars_larsen
Oct. 29th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC)
When you think about it, our tanks already have computerized fire control systems, which can both identify friend/foe and target them. Our helicopters pop up over the horizon and the pilot is shown a display with up to 256 targets that he just selects and the helicopter destroys them with missiles.

We already have robots on the battlefield, they just have people in them. If you were one of these people, you'd probably welcome a remote control system. I doubt anyone riding around in a bullet magnet would be thinking of terminator 2 type scenarios.
spoonless
Oct. 29th, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm not worried about a terminator scenario... that could only happen with conscious machines which, are a lot further off than what they're doing now. (And in that type of scenario, I would expect the machines to be on the "right" side anyway.) What I'm worried about is that this will give US leaders even more of an excuse to be trigger happy with their military. While in the long term it's very good that we can fight without it costing American lives... certainly it's good in the case of actual "defense", but the lower the cost of war is for Americans the more prone to starting wars we could become. And I think we are already a bit too prone to that to begin with.
lars_larsen
Oct. 29th, 2006 09:25 pm (UTC)
I guess I just think we're already as trigger happy as we're gonna get. They clearly dont care of those kids die out there. I don't think they'd make decisions any differently if they were mostly putting robots on the line.

The weird part is I think its illegal for me to build my own kill-bot. I think putting a solenoid on the trigger of a gun makes it an illegal machine gun.
luxvalence
Oct. 31st, 2006 03:36 am (UTC)
I would expect the machines to be on the "right" side anyway.

You clearly have not yet seen enough Battlestar Galactica... not that there's a definitive "right" in that show. Just a lot of really good questions.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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