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Military Robots from 2007 to 2032

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the where-is-my-mecha dept.

Robotics 118

Roland Piquepaille writes "A new report from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) looks at the future of the military's unmanned systems over the next 25 years. This 188-page report covers air-, land- and sea-based unmanned technology from 2007 to 2032. The long document notes that drone aircraft and ground-based robots have already proved they could be useful in Iraq and Afghanistan by saving soldiers' lives. The report also integrates contributions of combat commanders pointing out possible improvements to today's systems, such as 'better sensor technology for use on unmanned systems to identify underwater mines and land-based improvised explosive devices.' This report also looks at how developments in artificial intelligence and robotics might lead to 'autonomous, 'thinking' unmanned systems that could, for example, be used in aerial platforms to suppress enemy air defenses.'"

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118 comments

Military robots (1)

Malevolent Tester (1201209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21808994)

Are they here to protect us?

Re:Military robots (1)

Carbon016 (1129067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809234)

No, we're still waiting on the space robots. These ones don't know the terrible secret of space, so how could they protect us from it?

'Thinking' military robots and AIs? (1, Funny)

DragonPup (302885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809002)

What could possibily go wrong?!

Re:'Thinking' military robots and AIs? (4, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809040)

What could possibily go wrong?!
Yeah, these programs are being run by people who say (from TFA):

"We're attempting to better synergize and coordinate those development and procurement activities" for the Predator and Sky Warrior programs, Weatherington explained.
Synergize? We're all fucking doomed.

Re:'Thinking' military robots and AIs? (0, Flamebait)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809576)

DoD is all about buzzword bingo. Think of it as being run by PHBs who can kill a man a dozen different ways.

Re:'Thinking' military robots and AIs? (1)

linest (157204) | more than 6 years ago | (#21811204)

Synergize? We're all fucking doomed.


Synergy is the greatest word ever. You can apply it TO anything to mean anything and you always sound like you know what you're talking about ESPECIALLY if you have no clue.

Use it randomly.

Re:'Thinking' military robots and AIs? (1)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809118)

A lot of stuff like, insane robot killing machines let loose on an unsuspecting population. You don't have an imagination at all dude!

Wait... what's that... it was supposed to be humorously rhetorical... still you're not getting an apology!

Re:'Thinking' military robots and AIs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21811320)

They could use the same programmers/designers that brought us those fantastic electronic voting systems!

Oblig... (2, Funny)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809034)

I, for one, welcome our new Skynet overlords...

And... do the robots run Linux?

Re:Oblig... (3, Funny)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809274)

And... do the robots run Linux?

No, they will run on OS X.

The future of humanity will consist of people scurrying, ratlike, through the maze of burning, broken debris which is all that is left of our once-grand civilization, as cybernetic predators hunt down and exterminate us, one by one. BUT you can rest assured that those hunter-killer drones will have stylish industrial design, featuring sleek lines, designer colors, brushed aluminum, and white lucite!

Actually... (1)

quickpick (1021471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809650)

They will only run on operating systems that support STEAM because the robot overlords will want to utilize all the geeks who've played portal. Therefore all other OS users will be summarily deactivated because of their lack of portal knowledge.
Of course I'm kidding, they will only spare the most intelligent people so they can have them mate like horny monkeys. I know this to be true. Professor Fanrsworth said so.

Re:Oblig... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21810718)

Well the Vista trials weren't that great a success,

Trigger activation detected, Allow or De..[uplink timeout]

Re:Oblig... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809522)

Most likely they'll be grouped into Beowulf clusters, so yes, they'll be running ClusterDarwin.

Re:Oblig... (1)

mbrx (525713) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809662)

> And... do the robots run Linux?
As a matter of fact, in the robotics world the use of linux is quite large. I don't have any exact numbers but a guestimate would be around 50% linux based and the rest split between windows and embedded operating systems like VxWorks - depending a bit on how you define a "robot" and how you define "linux". Many robots used for the applications mentioned above come from eg. irobot [irobot.com].
Oh, and yes, I am a roboticist.

I'll bite (1)

TinheadNed (142620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21810112)

Yes, quite a few of them do.

The US Army likes Linux as they are unable to strongarm Microsoft into doing anything for them, as the Army is not a large customer to Microsoft, which is not its preferred method of doing business.

Having seen Micosoft present to a US Unmanned Systems conference, I got a nice warm feeling from nobody being staggeringly impressed with him.

Re:Oblig... (1)

Wookietim (1092481) | more than 6 years ago | (#21810676)

They would have to run Linux.... if they ran Vista, they'd never get beyond "I think therefore..." before getting a BLOD.

Re:Oblig... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21811328)

yes, some of them run linux. i'm now doing software dev for some of these systems. damn, it would be a nightmare to have to debug one of our autonomous vehicle's on-board software if it ran windows (but i'm also very biased).

Apocalypse (5, Insightful)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809066)

It's really easy to write about Terminators or Cylons and busy ourselves trying to determine the best place for the bunker and ammo dump but there is a serious threat here to people.

Any state not just the U.S. with the ability to engage in war without jeopardizing human lives will more than likely do so with increased frequency and lethality. We need people in war because it helps keep us out of it - well that's the theory anyway (read: Iraq). I am all for saving lives but I really don't believe that automatons with guns are the answer to saving lives. That and when they get tired of working for us that's when it really hits the fan.

Okay. Enough preaching, I have to get a couple of cases of ammo moved before the snow starts.

Re:Apocalypse (2, Interesting)

Speefnarkle1982 (901875) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809218)

I really think the best bet is to have smart machines go in and do the really dangerous stuff that could kill a lot of humans. The EOD guys use robots to disable IED's and landmines now, and it has saved many of their lives for sure. As long as there is someone monitoring what those autonomous systems are up to, then "intelligent" decisions can be made by soldiers in the battlefield on how best to use these great resources.

I don't honestly ever see us relying entirely on autonomous systems to do the hard work of planning, coordinating, and executing battle operations. They'll probably fall under helping humans execute a battle plan in some capacity. There is a human element to strategy that we just can't reciprocate with AI. Brilliant Generals with good instincts have helped pave the way for successful military campaigns. Human experience is irreplaceable.

Re:Apocalypse (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809486)

There is a human element to strategy that we just can't reciprocate with AI.

Honestly, how do you know that? You've been reading too much science fiction. At least, the kind of sci-fi where the otherwise beleaguered and thoroughly-outclassed humans have some inherent capacity that a machine somehow can't duplicate or exceed. The thing is, there's no reason whatsoever to believe that that is true.

We don't currently have an operational artificial intelligence of any kind, and we may never get one to work. The truth is nobody really knows what it will be like when we do. But dollars to doughnuts, we'll find that even a mediocre AI will be able to plan and prosecute a military campaign one hell of a lot better than any of us. Worse yet, when both sides in a conflict are managed by advanced artificially intelligent planners and AI-driven war machines, humans may very well find themselves completely sidelined by the conflict. But when a robot bomber decides to drop a twenty-megaton nuke on a city, it'll still be our asses on the line.

Getting past the unjustified racial glorification that exists with any presumption of intrinsic human superiority, it's also true that we have a lot of inescapable limitations to which a machine would not be subject. True AI, if and when it is finally achieved, will either be the greatest advance in human history, greater than taming of fire, the invention of the wheel, the Internet, possibly even greater than air conditioning ... or it will be the end for us, one way or another. Even if an AI has no particular desire to destroy the human race ala Skynet, but is, in fact, a helpful, friendly beast, well, think about the consequences of that. Remember, humans are limited by what will fit in our skulls: machines are not. What if such a hyperintelligent machine were able to answer all of our questions, able to figure out for us everything that we want to know. That, in itself, would be damaging. Why bother to learn anything, do anything? Let the machine do the work (that theme has also been done to death.)

In any event, the odds of our maintaining any form of superiority over our synthetic progeny are minimal at best.

Re:Apocalypse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809728)

Even if an AI has no particular desire to destroy the human race ala Skynet, but is, in fact, a helpful, friendly beast, well, think about the consequences of that.

That's the basic premise of the wildly popular Culture novels by Banks. His answer seems to be that aside from the creative 1% no one would really care. The *vast* majority of people couldn't participate in the advancement of a human run society, so the only difference they see in a machine run society is that they have more stuff and less hardship.

Re:Apocalypse (1)

shoor (33382) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809968)

I can remember getting in discussions on usenet about what happens when AI exceeds human intelligence. First of all, I very much expect the future to surprise everybody, to be full of unanticipated things, simply because that's what's it's been like for previous generations. (Well, maybe the Egypt of 2200 BC wouldn't have surprised the Egyptians of 2300 BC, but never mind that). But, what might happen is that we humans
don't stand by passively and let the AI's keep us as mere pets, or exterminate us as pests, but that we change too. Become cyborgs, merging with the machines. Ultimately, if mankind survives, though, I think it will have to be in some articificial form. That the AIs will succeed us more as our children than some vanquishing invasion.

Re:Apocalypse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21810102)

Thinking beyond our species, robots will be subject to the same evolutionary forces as other animals on the planet. While they may become a powerful branch of life, they will always remain just another type of life subject capable of having species which become extinct, which dominate, and which coexist with other life forms. Perhaps, placed in a positive light, perhaps we will create the life form that will one day live long enough and travel far enough to visit other stars and, perhaps, other intelligent life forms in the universe. Perhaps specism will kill off anything so intelligent for the same reason it motivates us to keep ourselves dominant over our biological relatives.

Re:Apocalypse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21811002)

Why bother to learn anything, do anything? Let the machine do the work (that theme has also been done to death.)
Because alternatives are just too BORING. You'll want to learn and you'll want to do stuff. And it will be easy.

Re:Apocalypse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21811580)

Not just true with machines, any rulers who don't value the 'lives' of their troops will willingly go to war. This is often used as justification for universal conscription. If it is everyone's sons and daughters versus the volunteers, folks might think twice.

Re:Apocalypse (1)

pQueue (1091881) | more than 6 years ago | (#21812536)

"We don't currently have an operational artificial intelligence of any kind, and we may never get one to work"

There are numerous systems that learn from experience, make plans, and adapt. Even the UAVs of today operate the flight controls autonomously and are merely directed where to go. I count that as operational AI.

People keep raising the bar on what qualifies as intelligence in an effort to maintain some sense of human superiority; the same bias you already pointed out. We tend to see intelligence as doing the things we can do like talking and image recognition/segmentation but thats a very limited definition. A machine that makes decisions better than we do in one area is still intelligent.

Re:Apocalypse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809610)

I think we need more inteligent killing machines for save lives here in the U.S., period!

Re:Apocalypse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21813998)

There is a human element to strategy that we just can't
  • reciprocate
with AI.
That word doesn't mean what you appear to think it does.

Re:Apocalypse (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809292)

"We need people in war because it helps keep us out of it - well that's the theory anyway (read: Iraq)."

That sounds like a really twisted version of doublespeak. I would argue that we need more robots in war to keep *us* out of it. War is not a game, it is not fair and is not to be taken lightly. What's that old saying...

"The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his."

Re:Apocalypse (1)

mh1997 (1065630) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809632)

"We need people in war because it helps keep us out of it - well that's the theory anyway (read: Iraq)."

That sounds like a really twisted version of doublespeak. I would argue that we need more robots in war to keep *us* out of it. War is not a game, it is not fair and is not to be taken lightly.

I think what the parent meant is that there must be a cost to war or it is too easy to start a war. Since you posted on slashdot, le me use an example that you are undoubtably familiar with - In the original Star Trek series, please re-watch the episode "A Taste of Armageddon."

Re:Apocalypse (2, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809420)

Any state not just the U.S. with the ability to engage in war without jeopardizing human lives will more than likely do so with increased frequency and lethality.
Until there are two states that have this capability... then it becomes very expensive.

Also, there are probably political leaders that would value a $1,000,000 robot more highly than an infantry soldier, at least with respect to war planning.

My pure, selfish side is very glad that the US is staying ahead of the competition.

Re:Apocalypse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809460)

>My pure, selfish side is very glad that the US is staying ahead of the competition.

Heheh. How far you think you are on this? 2 years? 1? Or maybe just 6 months?

ESAD.

Re:Apocalypse (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809502)

the ability to engage in war without jeopardizing human lives will more than likely do so with increased frequency..
The same reasoning applies to any technological development that has military applications. I'm not going to start preaching against technology, though. No matter how cheap war gets, responsibility remains the same. Don't worry about technology; worry about those who choose to push the button.

..and lethality
I'm not so sure about that. In approximately the last century, we've seen a trend where as technology improves, collateral damage diminishes.

Re:Apocalypse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21811156)

I'm not so sure about that. In approximately the last century, we've seen a trend where as technology improves, collateral damage diminishes.

Unfortunately, it is just war propaganda to ease your conscience. Civilians are always and still more massive casualties of wars then soldiers. It is not an anomaly...it was predictable after all.

As technology improves, less technological side is forced into tactics and strategy which increases civilian casualties. Persuading the locals that "their side" is only one responsible ... *usually* won't work. Inability to match the military strength of overwhelming enemy results in thinking of strategy along lines of using "special operations" - a.k.a. terrorist actions. Those are not new phenomena - history is full of examples, scattered over centuries and places.

You may say that, ethically, it doesn't concern the more technological side in war, but it certainly concerns the side which decides to start the war. Incidentally, the side which believes that it will be less damaged by the war is the side which more readily starts the war.

Re:Apocalypse (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809790)

We need people in war because it helps keep us out of it - well that's the theory anyway

Actually, if you look at the past 5,000 years of human history, I'm pretty sure that fact doesn't help one bit.

In fact, I would argue that humans are the perpetrators of all atrocities so far because they were in the war in the first place.

Would an AI or a guy sitting in an air conditioned bunker freak out like the US troops did during the My Lai Massacre [wikipedia.org] and start shooting everyone in sight?

No my friend, history has shown that war is never gruesome enough for man and if you take away people's guns, tanks, and jets they'll murder each other with their bare hands.

Re:Apocalypse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21813632)

Would an AI or a guy sitting in an air conditioned bunker freak out like the US troops did during the My Lai Massacre and start shooting everyone in sight?

Guy sitting in an air conditioned bunker, absolutely yes. I don't need much breath to exemplify: road rage, game immersion, empathic distance (bomber pilots, artillery crews, submarine commanders).

AI, no, UNLESS it infers conclusion that ultimate cruelty ensures survivors' obedience, in which case it will use it increasingly and indiscriminately. We are forgetting another aspect of strategic shift advanced AI brings to war: You don't actually NEED local civilian PEOPLE anymore. Robots can substitute them. You have no reason to keep natives alive, much less happy, they are liability and potential adversary. AI will soon conclude that most efficient way of winning the resources of a land is to kill and dispose of all of natives and let escape none, not even kids who could potentially become vengeful terrorists.

We should be aware that we might be letting the genie out of the bottle. Wars are still (somewhat) "democratic" - you need cooperation of large groups of individuals on common goal. Not so with robotic warfare - minority in command of AI-driven machinery could launch an all out war on the rest. All of proponents here assume that they are and will be part of the solution, like they are today, not part of the problem, in the future. However, only those who hold the keys get to decide who stays and who takes a short walk. Right now, warmongers still need you... until they get something better to amend you.

Excellent! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809074)

Because, you know, there might be a few places left that The American Empire can't bomb without better sensors and intelligent military robots.

What's that? There aren't? Well crap. Build 'em anyway.

(Sir? You've got a bit of hypocrisy on your sleeve. Up a little. There.)

Nothing good will come of this (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809114)

Unless we get some evil aliens to fight off, only human lives will be lost. And likely American lives too.

Re:Nothing good will come of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21810446)

Unless we get some evil aliens to fight off,
Evil by who's definition? Maybe we'll get visited by some nice folks who think eating meat is evil - hopefully they'll be enlightened enough not to exerminate us for our barbarism.

Dinochrome Brigade (4, Interesting)

JesseL (107722) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809126)

The article didn't address the big question. Are we on track with the Bolo program [wikipedia.org]?

Piquepaille (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809520)

Suck my big fucking American COCK, you French poodle.

Hands down winner: Keith Laumer FTW!! (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809714)

You beat me to it fair and square. I was going to reply with this: http://www.webscription.net/10.1125/Baen/0743471873/0743471873.htm [webscription.net] from the most excellent online reading source, the Baen Free Library! http://www.baen.com/library/ [baen.com], as it seemed appropriate to the article.

Bad Bolo! Heal boy! Sit Bolo, sit! Ahhhrrrgghhh!

Yes, interesting times: human defined AI+combat machines....it could get VERY interesting before we truly master it- if ever.http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/12/23/2323214 [slashdot.org]

If my assumption that you are another Kieth Laumer fan, then...well met. If not, I still applaud your timely Bolo reference, and thanks fore the opening for my links! :)

Re:Hands down winner: Keith Laumer FTW!! (1)

JesseL (107722) | more than 6 years ago | (#21812136)

I'm definitely another Keith Laumer fan, well met. Though I've got to admit that I liked Galactic Odyssey [webscription.net] even more than the Bolo series.

Re:Hands down winner: Keith Laumer FTW!! (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21812274)

I also liked that work, but I got hooked on the Bolo series years ago. :)

Unmanned Drones really do save lives (3, Insightful)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809154)

There are numerous documented cases of unmanned drones carrying Hellfire missles that saved Soldier Lives by helping them get out of sticky situations. Note that these things are not autonomous. They are controlled by a remote operator.

Re:Unmanned Drones really do save lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21810158)

There are numerous documented cases of unmanned drones carrying Hellfire missles that saved Soldier Lives by helping them get out of sticky situations.
Sounds like we're still left with a pile of dead people at the end of the day.

Weapons do not save lives. They end them.

Re:Unmanned Drones really do save lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21810740)

Frequently they do both. Sorry kiddo, the world is complicated, and spouting platitudes won't make it simple.

Evidence, please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21812648)

That doesn't really answer anything. Could missiles have not been carried by manned aircraft as well in these cases? Did military planners put soldier lives in a riskier situation than they otherwise might have since they knew they could bomb their way out if things turned bad?

You've got like 4 variables there, and one experiment (repeated). Until you can show me that in the absence of some of these other things, that more lives would have been lost, I'm going to remain skeptical.

Let's take over the world! (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809260)

If the USA could build a million robots, what's the harm in trying to send in a giant army of robotic soldiers to try and take over the world?

Re:Let's take over the world! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809304)

China?!

Re:Let's take over the world! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809746)

The robots would all have to be built in China, because we have no industrial capability left. China would build a million crappy robots for us, and a 100 million good ones for itself.

Re:Let's take over the world! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809758)

what's the harm in trying to send in a giant army of robotic soldiers to try and take over the world?

Retaliation from Japanese robots, which are generally acknowledged as superior.

Other than that, though, it's a good idea. Just make sure to pre-emptively nuke Japan first, though.

Power from the sky? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809290)

If I were doing these robots, I would be thinking long term and thinking how to put up a sat. that can provide power to my troops and robots.

Why Don't We Just Skip the Robots... (1)

bossvader (560071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809320)

Why Don't We Just Skip the Robots all together and just engage in remote computer simulations and the losing side just throws themselves in the incinerators...

Oh wait that was a Star Trek TOS episode...with the great "Necessary Horrors of War" speech in the end...

http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/TOS/episode/68706.html [startrek.com]

And BTW exactly who's live are going to be saved????

We save a few of our lives...so we can end many more of theirs...

Geez no wonder why I don't want to have kids...

Re:Why Don't We Just Skip the Robots... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809374)

we don't want you to have kids either. loser.

Re:Why Don't We Just Skip the Robots... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809582)

You dumbass. More civilians died of starvation in each major war between 100 AD and 1900 then total deaths in the mechanized wars of the 20th century. More civilians died in WWII then total dead in Clinton and Bush's wars.

Re:Why Don't We Just Skip the Robots... (1)

bossvader (560071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21810464)

To You 2 Anonymous Cowards...

Geez I don't know where to start...

First I grew up in a Military Family...My Father Killed People for A Career..read not a desk job...dropping bombs on people and aerial combat... losing many...many friends... War is a horrible thing...and should stay that way as a deterrent...that may be a difficult concept for you. If you notice...many of the top generals in all actuality looks at war as it is...a horrible and awful thing and should be treated as a last response with all due diligence...(don't even get me started on that one)...today it seems like it is a first response...and not well though through.

Anonymous Coward #2...at least you got close...sorry if I didn't spell it out for you...

If I think we should be spending money elsewhere such as solving more long term issues...such as renewable resources, cheap and plentiful energy, cheap and plentiful food, cheap plentiful water, (you think things are bad about oil...wait till we start fighting over water... read about the upcoming water wars...) working on cures for diseases.....instead of more remote, efficient, desensitized ways to kill people and continue to breed contempt, hatred and instability around the world...then I am in fact a loser and extremely proud of it.

Yes occasionally they will help...our side...but in fact they are killing machines...and yes I know there are bad guys out there... and I am pretty aware there are more...we are doing a good job of giving them a cause...and creating a new generation of terrorists.

Yeah ... I'm not sure I want to bring more kids into this world...we should start taking care of the ones that are here.

Fire away with insults!!!

Re:Why Don't We Just Skip the Robots... (1)

ScottyH (791307) | more than 6 years ago | (#21811712)

insult #1: we see you have mastered the ellipsis. please move on to other forms of punctuation.

by the way, I counted 31. ridiculous.

Re:Why Don't We Just Skip the Robots... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21813094)

insult #1: we see you have mastered the ellipsis. please move on to other forms of punctuation.
by the way, I counted 31. ridiculous.
Pardon me, sir and/or madam, but how many hyphens should you use between anal and retentive?
Even a 4004 based AI could parse the message from the stream of consciousness. Straighten out your nose and either comment on the content or ignore the message in the first place.

This could actually change things (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809442)

Until now, the foot soldier has been the essential ingredient necessary to successfully fight a war. You can bomb and destroy people and property but you can't occupy territory without foot soldiers.

Now, we are beginning to see a way to occupy territory without having personnel on the ground. Robots could be much cheaper than soldiers and the infrastructure necessary to maintain them. That means you can have more patrols and make it much harder for the enemy to infiltrate. This would change the balance in guerilla warfare.

Consider going on patrol. Currently a group of soldiers on patrol needs a translator to travel with them. Most of the time the translator is doing nothing. He has to be protected and his family faces reprisals because he can be identified by the Taliban (for instance). With robotic patrols, the translator could be in the air-conditioned comfort of an office in downtown Kabul. None of the locals have to know who he is. He can translate for many patrols assuming they all didn't need his services at the same time. So, even for the jobs that still require humans, robots would make things a lot more efficient.

Although the price of vehicles won't change much, the electronics necessary to control them is getting cheaper. Not only that but the vehicles themselves can be cheaper if they don't have to transport humans.

Re:This could actually change things (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809898)

How would the ability to do that depend on having robots? What kind of communication device can robots carry around that human soldiers can't?

rj

True as far as it goes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809930)

The equipment would be extra for the soldiers but it would be integral to the robots. The robots would require a communications infrastructure (video in particular) that isn't absolutely necessary for soldiers.

Re:This could actually change things (1)

tuju (1154255) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809986)

With robotic patrols, the translator could be in the air-conditioned comfort of an office in downtown Kabul.

And what have prevented doing so since the Graham Bell invented voice communication without AI killing robots?

Today you get 5.1 digital sound everywhere in globe with DoD's budget.

Re:This could actually change things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21812758)

Consider going on patrol. Currently a group of soldiers on patrol needs a translator to travel with them. Most of the time the translator is doing nothing. He has to be protected and his family faces reprisals because he can be identified by the Taliban (for instance). With robotic patrols, the translator could be in the air-conditioned comfort of an office in downtown Kabul. None of the locals have to know who he is. He can translate for many patrols assuming they all didn't need his services at the same time. So, even for the jobs that still require humans, robots would make things a lot more efficient.

Although the price of vehicles won't change much, the electronics necessary to control them is getting cheaper. Not only that but the vehicles themselves can be cheaper if they don't have to transport humans.


You're thinking old school here. With the developments in nanotech I'd like to see nanomachines that simply wait in dispensers fired by artillery shells or dropped by aircraft that attack enemy troops and quite simply gut them from the inside out. THERE are your military robots. Straight into the respiratory system and *blam* start burrowing outwards. Want to get fancy? Equip our troops with injected and encrypted IFF beacons so that in a face-off with somebody like China their main job will be mopping up goo since they'd have the ability to operate in theater while the aforementioned devices eviscerate all human life in their path. No radiation, no nasty nerve gas, and no viruses to worry about.

Hell, you could even have specialty drones to attack systems that are NBC hardened and buttoned up. Even without IFF beacons you'd figure they'd have a couple of hours of power at most then they'd go dormant. How difficult would the software be to determine a) whether or not a target is human, and b) whether the target has IFF? Probably not that hard twenty years from now.

You just never know what DARPA is working on, and I want the US to have it before China and the EU.

War isn't going to go away (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809444)

I don't see any pressure or influence that would cause people to decide against warfare. It has been part of our history forever and if you look at nature, you'll see that this holds for all life, not just humans. War isn't something we'll "grow out of." (Why would that happen? What would cause it?) There will always be disagreement about resources, and when someone can't get what they want any other way, you're left with two choices: 1) war 2) losing.

Unmanned fighters are just another aspect of making war cheaper (whether in dollars or lives), along the same lines of a wide diversity of developments from precision-guided weapons, to MASH units. The cheaper you make it for your side (and more expensive you make it for the opposing side), the more likely you "win." It's just like any other technology.

Thus, there's nothing really special about this development. It's neat (or horrifying if you're a pacifist), but just another incremental step. It doesn't change the overall politics and philosophy of war in any way.

Re:War isn't going to go away (1)

solsire (1186209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21810532)

Well, there's competition among animals. possibly rivalry, not warfare. And, as a pacifist, I am much more horrified by, say, wars in China, where up to a third of a population would be slaughtered, because the objective was to capture land - it used to be a source of wealth. Defense - yes, but expansion just don't make as much sense as it used to. Besides we seem to be progressing from religion and nationalism (pretext).

I, for one (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809452)

I, for one, welcome our new Skynet meme replying Slashdot overlords.

Definitely the wave of the future (2, Interesting)

sam_handelman (519767) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809468)

It's clear from the public record that the leadership in this country (both parties) plan on fighting counterinsurgency wars of one kind or another for most of the next century, if not beyond.

  This only makes sense from their perspective - economically, there is rough parity between the United States and the other centers of economic might (roughly: Western Europe and East Asia). Only in the area of military might does the US have an overwhelming advantage.

  So, if there's a dispute or competition, US planners want it to be resolved militarily, because they expect to win.

  However, it's impossible to fight colonial wars with a citizen's army, even a volunteer army. As we see in Iraq, the army destroys itself. We might try to fight it with mercenaries (Blackwater, etc.), and we probably will, if planners can get away with it, but they'll want to hedge their bets by automating as much of the process of occupation and counter-insurgency as they can.

  As a test case for using American military might to dominate the next century, Iraq has been an abysmal failure. But don't think that will dissuade the ultra-right; they're committed to violence, and if the tools we have are inadequate, and however disastrous the consequences of failure, they won't give it up willingly.

Re:Definitely the wave of the future (1)

Delifisek (190943) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809570)

Yes US have finest Airforce entire world. Other than that, it was circus... When US Airforce effectless (like mountains of afghanistan) US army does noting.

Law enforcement applications (0, Flamebait)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809472)

"Certainly, the roadmap projects an increasing level of autonomy," Weatherington said, adding, as "the autonomy level increases, we do believe that that will open the avenue for additional mission areas."

We all know that armed, autonomous military robots are a bad idea. It is a sign of the apocalypse.

What's worse is that current military brass take a move toward autonomy as a given

Worse still is the trend of law enforcement paralleling the military's psychotic view of population control and 'providing security'. It's no secret, police departments of major cities use UAV's for traditional law enforcement applications (murders, theft, drugs, etc). Most urban warfare device manufacturers treat law enforcement as a secondary market when designing new weapons. Just look at how Blackwater is bidding on domestic law enforcement contracts if you need further proof.

Before I start bashing Neo-cons I just have to express my amazement that the move towards a command/control/surveillance society is progressing at such a startling rate. There are always the doom and gloom futurists and their opponents who call them 'chicken little's', but what has to happen before the skeptics realize that the US and world at large really ARE heading for some sort of dystopian future as imagined in so many sci-fi movies?

It really is only a matter of time until some cheesey neo-con governor uses public panic from a horrific crime (Michael Devlin, Jon Bennet Ramsey, Columbine, etc) to justify some really scary law enforcement policies in the name of 'being tough on crime'...and the kind of thinking in TFA sets the table for that to happen.

Neo-cons are ruining America...tell your friends

Re:Law enforcement applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809674)

It really is only a matter of time until some cheesey neo-con governor uses public panic from a horrific crime .. to justify some really scary law enforcement policies

A matter of time?! It has been happening all throughout history. Neo-cons like Bill Clinton did it. Neo-cons like Joseph Stalin and FDR did it. Neo-cons like Elizabeth I did it. Neo-cons like Julias Ceasar did it. Neo-cons like Ogg the caveman did it, although his version of "law enforcement" was a bit obscure from our point of view.

Why do I have the feeling that the term "neo-con", to you, is just a generic pejorative that applies to anyone in power who does something bad? ;-)

If you want to talk shit about neo-cons, then focus on their weird ideas about religion, and the way they talk about making government smaller, while using their power to make it bigger. But abusing police power? Please. Yes, they do that, but they don't do it in any way that distinguishes them from almost all the other political factions.

Re:Law enforcement applications (1)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 6 years ago | (#21810560)

hey AC,

looks like you're pretty angry...most likely b/c you are or once thought of yourself as a 'neo-con'...

look, I concede that many people who are not neo-cons throughout time have abused power. By nature, anyone who has power will abuse it to some extent. It is unavoidable. The reason why most people in our country (myself included) focus on neo-cons is because it is mostly THEIR policies and philosophies of governance that have resulted in the WORST examples of abuse of power in our country since their intellectual forbearers in the '50s, up to their ascendency to power in the 80s.

when talking about groups of people in government and politics, general terms of description must be used...it's a linguistic necessity.

neo-cons are just the latest and worst. Of course they aren't the first to abuse police power, but they are DEMONSTRABLY worse than previous administrations in the late 20th century...so coldly effective at using fear to manipulate the general public into accepting their freedom-stripping anarcho-capitalist policies it makes me physically ill...of course liberal types do it too, so what, the point is, neo-cons are just so much worse, and hypocritical on top of it all.

 

Re:Law enforcement applications (2, Insightful)

iron spartan (1192553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21811800)

Neither side can say that they are innocent of abusing power. How its reported in the media, is a different matter all together. Compare how ECHELON was reported on compared to the Patriot Act. ECHELON was a far greater invasion of privacy than the Patriot Act, but because of who introduced it, it was treated far differently.

imagine a beowulf cluster of these (1)

loonicks (807801) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809514)

it's actually not too far from the truth. it's common for these systems to share information with each other. for example, for surveillance [mit.edu]...

The best way of saving soldiers lives... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21809616)

...is stopping war.

Isn't it wonderful? (0, Flamebait)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809734)

Once we manage to replace meat machines with metal and silicon ones, it'll be great.

Robotic soldiers will go and kill whoever you tell them to kill, terrorists or American citizens.
They'll never snitch about the crimes they commit.
They don't create flag-draped caskets or teary funerals.
There will never be a memorial for the unknown killbot.
The warmongers won't have to justify sending our finest men and women to go die.
No more recruiting shortages.
No complaints from robots about having not seen their families in 3 years.
No more field medics, or wounded, or veteran's administration.
The promise of war being a nasty, ugly, fucking horrible affair is the best way to prevent it.

Re:Isn't it wonderful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21813584)

This is only flamebait to psychos. Mod parent up.

Advanced Military Algorithms (2, Insightful)

SMACX guy (1003684) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809772)

Man has killed man from the beginning of time, and each new frontier has brought new ways and new places to die. Why should the future be different?

And now for something completely different.... (0, Flamebait)

zuki (845560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809818)

When thinking about projects such as this, and comparing them to the ruthless and efficient way a few motivated individuals were able to bring
down a symbol of American might with a handful of box-cutters and some cheap flying lessons on 09/11, I think that it is starting to become
abundantely clear that this nation might very well be in the process of losing its collective bearings, by refusing to do the obvious, such as old-fashioned
intelligence gathering from people in the field, multiple secure contacts and authoritative sources, (which could have avoided the faulty intel about Iraq)
and the likes, which are set to cost us in excess of a bleeping TRILLION $ that could arguably have instead been spent on much more pressing issues,
besides repeatedly bombing some sand dunes, many rocks and a few camels.

Rather than settings our priorities on high-fallutin' technology items that will more than likely prove to be flawed, hard to control and guaranteed to cause
many innocents to lose their lives, (good old 'collateral damage') not to say anything of the possibility of an AI takeover making our worst nightmare scenarios
become true, one would think that we should invest far more of our resources in what is proven to prevent and anticipate conflicts with greater certainty.
Like for example not acting like arrogant saber-rattling a**holes on a divine mission to bring order to the rest of the planet? Or making sure that we can bring
containment and methods to prevent hostilities to new, greater levels of efficiency.

It is disconcerting to see such a drive to have our tax $ being spent on projects that do not appear to have any other purpose but that of de-humanizing all of
these situations, just because they look great on paper to some administration bureaucrats trying at all cost to minimize the human casualties to their own
armed forces, which in recent times has historically always been the factor that drives otherwise-brainwashed public opinion against US war campaigns.

When seeing how Diebold has handled e-voting, or even many other comparable government-funded IT projects, we should never forget that this childish
fascination with high-technology could possibly blind us to much in future conflicts.

All of this high-tech circus will - as always - be ultimately brought down by cunning, resourceful fighting by people motivated to do so.
I am not one for conspiracy theories, but I am REALLY not liking the turn of recent events. It points to very bleak possibilities I'd rather not even contemplate.

Z.

It's always our robots (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 6 years ago | (#21809912)

No one ever imagines the other side coming up with something like autonomous aerial swarm bots that have the sole purpose in life of putting themselves on a collision course with any other aircraft in the area. If they were optically guided they could potentially be pretty rough on stealth bombers.

You could buy a lot of inexpensive swarm bots for the cost of one stealth bomber. Not to mention the headline news effect of the wreckage.

Re:It's always our robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21810642)

To create that kind of robot you'd need extremely powerful optics and really good programming to see something moving 400+ mph far enough away and intercept it. And right now that kind of hardware would be pretty heavy. Thusly needing some pretty good propulsion systems. These are starting to get expensive.
Of course things will get better with time. But by the time this kinda thing becomes cheap and effective, we'll have shields for that kinda stuff.
duh

Cheney will love this (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21810266)

... he will be able to bypass the military and do Iran, then .... then all those pesky serfs in the States who eventually rebel after realising that they have been suckered.

in other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21810492)

saving lives and suppressing enemy fire... thats a nice way to put it. Or you can say killing enemies more efficiently. Yeah there we go.

In Honda's Fields (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 6 years ago | (#21810826)

In Honda's fields the poppies blow
Between us robots, row on row,
Left round the place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amongst us hunks below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
they made us far across the seas
Sold, and were shipped, and now we lie
In Honda's fields.

Take up your quarrel with your foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
A Warranty; yours to hold high
Once all us pricey robots die
Good for a month, though poppies grow
in Honda's fields.

Countermeasures (1)

iron spartan (1192553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21811444)

Any time there is a new weapon system introduced, some starts working on a way to counter it. This is the way that that warfare has always progressed. The Predator, Global Hawk and the EOD bots are all great tools, but all have weaknesses. If someone found a way to crash the GPS network (high altitude nuke detonation anyone), the Global Hawk and Predator nav systems are gone. If someone figured out how to hack the control links, the Predator could be turned on friendly troops before anyone knew that there was anything wrong. Another problem is the EM signature that a controller has to put out. For a scout, like I am, active transmissions could mean arty coming in on our head. Tight and burst transmissions are not practical for use as control links. Against an enemy like North Korea, who's commo network is almost completely wired, broad spectrum jamming is a probability. I can just imagine the havoc that would come about if someone figured out how to remotely alter IFF transponders. Having a unarmed autonomous system for use in combat is still a long way out, I don't care what anyone says. I doubt that we will see armed autonomous systems, outside of an area denial operation, in our lifetime

Distance from Action (1)

deboli (199358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21812314)

Such systems will most likely increase the frequency and deadliness of wars and especially small, localised conflicts because it is easy, cheap and saves soldiers' lives. The further away one is from the messy details, the easier it is to conduct an action: Pushing a knife into your enemy's body is harder than shooting him from a distance. Pushing a button to release a bomb or shell where you don't even see the target (and the results) is easier than shooting. Following this logic means that programming a system that does the killing for you is so remote we don't even register.

This has far reaching implication for scientists: The old excuse of "we're just building the machine, someone else uses it" does not hold water in case of an autonomous system. Now the machine runs on its own and our "spirit" is within in form of programming code. It is us who are doing the killing. Engineers and programmers need to take now direct moral responsibility for their actions the same way soldiers have to.

Philosophy and ethics should occupy a large chunk in any engineering curriculum...

I've got an idea for the DOD. (1)

crhylove (205956) | more than 6 years ago | (#21813824)

It's a very good idea, and could be good for the safety of our country. How do I give them my idea and still make money? Or should I try the private sector first? What process should I go through? Does anybody on slashdot have experience in getting venture capitalists, and initial funding? What's my first step? Should this be an Ask /. question? Should I get a patent?

My idea is primarily defensive, rather than offensive, and could also have plenty of value in the private sector on it's own. So please don't get up in arms about me giving good ideas to murderers or anything, thanks. This is an idea to help save our troops, and their loved ones from losing them. It can't actually be used to kill, unless..... hmm... Well, the first generation would definitely solely be defensive, anyway, hopefully by the next generation we can have real elections again, and not worry too much about what "our" government has or doesn't have.

At any rate, I have the health, mind, spirit, and pocket book of the American consumer most squarely in mind as well.... And maybe have a cure for this global warming problem too.

I'm not kidding. I need investors. Much Love.

rhY
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