Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Robotics: Should war be easy as playing a computer game

Robotics in war is the most important change in major human activity dating back at least 5,000 years, according to P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank and the author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.

“Forty-three other countries besides the U.S. build military robots,” he says.  “So you have this just huge... immense growth. The best way to imagine where we're going is to look at what Bill Gates says about robotics" He says, "Robotics are about where computers were in 1980.” 

Warfare goes open source: Just like software, warfare is going open source. That is, we're starting to use more and more systems that are commercial, off-the-shelf -- some of it is even DIY. You can build your own version of the Raven drone, which is a widely used military drone, for about $1,000 dollars. So we have a flattening of the landscape of war and technology that is just like what happened in software. A wide variety of actors can utilize these systems. 

The non-state actors range from Hezbollah to this militia group in Arizona to a bunch of college kids at Swarthmore. It widens the landscape of who can play in war. That's a pretty disturbing factor. One person's hobby -- such as the hobbyist who flew a homemade drone from North America to Great Britain -- can be another person's terrorist strike option.
Source: “Wired For War or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Let Dystopian SF Movies Inspire our Military Bots” -
 An interview with P.W. Singer, author of Wired for War” – hplus magazine – 20 May 2009

“This is amazing technology,” says Singer, “but it raises disturbing, fascinating questions. On one hand, hundreds of soldiers are alive today thanks to robots. The flip side, however, is that they allow us to use more force with less risk. Eleven out of the top 20 Taliban leaders have been killed by robot drones.” 

But the impetus to create a fully-functional, fully-autonomous robot warrior is a political one. Says Noel Sharkey, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at Sheffield University “Body bags containing real soldiers coming home affect the government electorally,” says Noel Sharkey, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at Sheffield University. “Once you start using robots, you remove this problem.” But do we really want going to war to be as easy, and impersonal, as playing a computer game? And once we have created our indestructible robot armies, will we ever be 100 per cent sure that we can control them?
Source: “March of the terminators” by Gavin Knight – Mail Online – 16 May 2009
THOUGHTS: Very big questions...trouble is I don't see citizens in any country having the opportunity to be part of this ethical debate.

KEYWORDS: Robot, Robot, War, Defence, Conflist, Ethics, Debate, Humanity   

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