PW Singer on military robots and the future of warfare. Our technology, our blind sense of 'progress' always seems to get ahead of us. Singer reminds us of how we first started throwing stones, and then firing arrows, bullets, missiles and now we have expendable robots. Energy weapons are also being developed, currently limited only by their cost. Mechanical suits are being built for soldiers, to increase their strength for various tasks (a further example of how quickly things are changing.) This is not science fiction anymore, it's reality.
Soldiers can now fight safely from a control room, operating a remote which fires at enemy targets by command. This means emotional and moral distance, a simulated computer game sense of real life combat. Unmanned jets, hovering spy robots and small tank-like killbots have all been tested out in combat. Their AI is still developing (artificial intelligence.) Human-like artificial intelligence (often called "true AI") is not far off.
Of course, killbots will always be given orders to assure the army leaders that they are in control, but many things can still go wrong. As Singer reminds us, robots see no difference between an old man with a cane and an armed soldier: they are nothing more to it than moving objects. This emotional distancing of the reality of war will make conflict all the easier, and where will it stop? How long will it be until we see armed robots moving about our city streets, in order to "protect" us? Ask yourself: why would such technology stop in foreign conflicts? There is no reason, especially since so few people seem to be at all concerned about any of this.
People feel safer when killbots are in their enemy's backyard, but this technology is becoming less expensive and more easily constructed all the time. And for purposes of national defence, it will become a seemingly practical solution for handling mobs or emotional protestors. This will escalate, as war always does. The robotic phase of war is just beginning. Does anyone give a damn?
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