Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Robot soldiers


The robot soldier is coming.

The Pentagon predicts that robots will be a major fighting force in the American military in less than a decade, hunting and killing enemies in combat.

Robots are a crucial part of the Army's effort to rebuild itself as a 21st-century fighting force, and a $127 billion project called Future Combat Systems is the biggest military contract in American history.

The military plans to invest tens of billions of dollars in automated armed forces. . . .

Military planners say robot soldiers will think, see and react increasingly like humans. . . And as their intelligence grows, so will their autonomy. .

As the first lethal robots head for Iraq, the role of the robot soldier as a killing machine has barely been debated. The history of warfare suggests that every new technological leap - the longbow, the tank, the atomic bomb - outraces the strategy and doctrine to control it.

"The lawyers tell me there are no prohibitions against robots making life-or-death decisions," said Mr. Johnson, who leads robotics efforts at the Joint Forces Command research center in Suffolk, Va. . .

"As machines become more intelligent, people will let machines make more of their decisions for them," Mr. Joy wrote recently in Wired magazine. "Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage, the machines will be in effective control."

Say, what?! I'm sure that there is a role for robots to play in the Pentagon's future, but "life-or-death decisions" and "effective control"? Maybe I have seen too many movies like I, Robot, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and War Games, but that sounds crazy to me.

UPDATE: Thanks for the link Vodkapundit. And OTB.

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