Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Crusher:" Robot Soldier

The war on terror is the first major conflict in which robots are playing a significant role. Predator drones are already patrolling battle zones. The first-generation Predators have been joined by Predator B, dubbed "The Reaper."

Airborne robots will probably be joined by robot trucks. Soon. When I was growing up, this would have been science fiction:
  • A seven-ton robot scout driving itself to an intersection keeping an eye on traffic for a week or so, and sending back reports
  • Later, the robot hauls supplies over terrain that would give humans in a Humvee spinal injuries
  • After being refitted with weapons, the seven-ton soldier attacks a heavily-fortified position
Today, seven tons of muscle truck with artificial intelligence is on its way to production.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is rolling out "Crusher," a robotic battle truck. "Crusher" drives itself, although it's possible to steer it by remote control.

"Crusher" in the news: When The New York Times and other traditional news outlets hear about this, I suspect that there'll be a spate of hand-wringing impression pieces on the inhumanity of war.

Like every other new technology, robots able to act without direct human control will require new procedures and rules of engagement. But I don't regard this new example of artificial intelligence as a monstrous threat.

Given a choice, in a situation where terrorists were dug in, surrounded by heavy barriers and booby traps, I'd rather have the assault led by a seven-ton robot, than by American troops.

Of course, I'm one of those people who believe that terrorists aren't very nice people. I also believe that people whose colleagues have used retarded women as walking bombs aren't likely to stop killing people because they've been asked politely.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.