|image: Wikimedia Commons|
The U.S. military’s pursuit of killer robots continues to make the news, despite the concerns of major international human rights groups who have launched a campaign to stop the runaway development of robots for war. Cambridge University has even launched a “Terminator” study program known officially as the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.
Nevertheless, the military-industrial complex and their partners in the Congressional “drone caucus” are reaping big profits from machine warfare. Simultaneously, the global economy is becoming increasingly robotized, with some experts predicting that humans will be completely outsourced to robots by 2045. Additionally, there is an overarching move toward humanoid robots with a goal to establish an emotional connection that current studies reveal is still lacking among the general population.
However, studies done within the military have revealed that there has been an emotional connection established, with some soldiers even mourning robots that have been “killed” in action. Now, however, one expert is going on the record to say that it is very likely that humans will be outnumbered by battlebots as soon as 2023.
Not only will soldiers be outnumbered — they will be massively outnumbered … by a factor of 10 to 1 according to robotic weapons expert, Scott Hartley:
ten years from now, there will probably be one soldier for every 10 robots. Each soldier could have one or five robots flanking him, looking for enemies, scanning for land mines. (Source)
Hartley was quick to counter talk of a purely terminator mission for the future of robotic warfare, as he states that many of the robots have the goal to save lives. It is this life-saving element that specifically has led to the emotional connection made among many troops.
An article at Army of Robots highlights some of what populates the current landscape (edited for brevity):
Daksh – Daksh is one of the most current military robots. It is an electrically powered and remote controlled robot which is used to locate, handle and destroying risky objects safely. The main role of this military robot is to recover improvised explosive devices. In short it is a vehicle for defusing bombs. The current use of military robots like Daksh has helped military organization in many ways. This robot can even climb stairs to reach risky materials. Moreover, it can also scan objects using its portable X-ray device.
Goalkeeper – This military robot is a Dutch close-in weapon system that helps to defend ships from incoming missiles as well as ballistic shells. This system generally comprises of autocannon and advanced radar that tracks incoming fires. It is an automatic system that can be also be deployed to protect airfields.
PackBot – PackBot is basically a series of military robots. The most recent base model of this robot is PackBot 510. This model utilizes a videogame-style hand controller make handier to young women and men. Configurations in this recent model include PackBot 510 with EOD bomb disposal, PackBot 510 with fast Tactical Maneuvering Kit; PackBot 510 with first responder kit, PackBot 510 with HazMat Detection Kit, PackBot 510 with Fido and PackBot 510 with REDOWL Sniper Detection Kit. (emphasis added).
MARCbot – A low-cost robotic platform that has been used in Iraq for the inspection of suspicious objects. This robot is one among the smallest and the most commonly used military robots. It looks like a small toy truck with an elevated mast on which a camera is mounted. The camera is utilized for looking behind doors. It has the capacity to run 6 hours on a set of fully charged batteries and was developed with the input of soldiers in Iraq to meet their needs.
Besides the above-mentioned military robots, there are also other kinds of military robots. These robots include Guargium, RQ-9 Predator B, RQ-1 Predator, TALON, Samsung SGR-A1 and Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle. (Source)
Scott Hartley’s company, 5D Robotics, is one of the companies answering the call from the military to increase the capabilities of combat robots. 5D Robotics is focused on the software needed to offer a more human-level decision making ability, which directly leads into what has human rights groups and Cambridge so concerned: autonomy — robots that can unilaterally decide which action to take, free of any human command:
“The DoD’s focus in this new age of austerity is to be lean, agile and flexible when it comes to robots,” said David Rowe, 5D Robotics CEO. “By focusing on interoperability, we’re addressing the joint chiefs’ concerns for cost limitations and efficiency. Plug and play software means we’re increasing maintainability and overall life cycle for existing systems while building out future systems.”
Because unmanned systems need to be both more capable and self-sufficient, the demonstrations focused on robots that could autonomously follow soldiers, lead soldiers and detect hazards, and navigate and avoid obstacles. “Our soldiers are strong, but no one can move fast with 120 pounds on your back,” said Rowe. (emphasis added) [Source]
We seem to be heading toward a future where “normal” humans are being phased out — if not completely by robots, then through enhancements and modifications that aim to create superhuman soldiers. We already are seeing killing at a distance from the use of remote controlled drone warfare. With new autonomous drone systems and increasing computer intelligence being created to supplant emotional human decisions (and errors, they claim), it is no longer a stretch of the imagination to see the near-future battlefield as a fully de-humanized computer game.
The reality of non-human war is already here, and apparently we won’t have too long to wait to see how it all plays out.
You can see the 5D Robotics Overview in the video below:
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