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Robot Rebellion Quelled in Iraq 317

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the get-to-tha-choppa dept.
opencity writes "The Register reports that the (perhaps inevitable) robot rebellion has been avoided ... for now. 'Ground-crawling US war robots armed with machine guns, deployed to fight in Iraq last year, reportedly turned on their fleshy masters almost at once. The rebellious machine warriors have been retired from combat pending upgrades.' Gizmodo also has a good photo."
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Robot Rebellion Quelled in Iraq

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  • by mikkl666 (1264656) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @02:36AM (#23044818)
    If they don't get robots this far [wikipedia.org], please don't give them guns, ever. EVER.
  • by haeger (85819) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:01AM (#23044918)
    What happened here from what I understand from the article (yes, I did read it) was that the machine started moving when it wasn't supposed to.
    That's not so bad when we are talking about automated warehouse trucks and similar robots, but when they are armed and constructed to kill it becomes something very serious indeed.

    So you'll need a kill-switch, but not one that the enemy can use, so it needs to be complicated, but not too complicated because then it won't work when needed. Not an easy thing to do.

    Oh, and there will be bugs in the machine. I have yet to write a single script or program that didn't have a bug in it. And I don't think I'm unique in this aspect. Now, do we really want to let loose a machine designed for killing that we don't have an easy way to shut off and that we know will have bugs in it?

    .haeger

  • by slashdotmsiriv (922939) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:12AM (#23044944)
    youhave30secondstocomply tag?
  • by 26199 (577806) * on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:18AM (#23044970) Homepage

    There is nothing new about having lives depend on software.

    Air traffic control, medical devices, nuclear power stations, space travel ... bugs in software in any of these can very quickly cost lives.

    My point being, it's not impossible to achieve an acceptable level of safety in these cases. (Although it's expensive). So it's not necessarily impossible here.

    One obvious feature ... which I would hope is in there ... is a physical rather than software safety catch on the weapon. Have it be possible to disable/enable it remotely, sure, but require the software to manipulate mechanical interlocks that are very visible.

  • by HuguesT (84078) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:37AM (#23045070)
    Actually lots of Asimov stories revolve around robots weaseling out of one of the three laws.
  • by tpheiska (1145505) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:42AM (#23045096)
    Great! And it took only 80-90 000 civilian casualties so far and an invasion to a sovreign country under a false pretense and without UN approval so that "things are mostly going rather well over there.".
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @04:02AM (#23045184) Homepage Journal
    I didn't actually know there were robot warriors, until today. Now I am thinking about whether I think robot warriors are good or really bad.

    On the one hand, I it is a Good Thing that robots can be used to fight instead of people, because, if a robot warrior gets destroyed, I won't feel nearly as bad as when a human soldier gets killed.

    On the other hand, incurring human casualties and bad feelings when going to war is a Good Thing. The idea that one can go to war by sending the robots and not incur any negativity on the home fronts is really scary. Going to war _should_ be painful.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12, 2008 @04:07AM (#23045212)

    So how long before these are available at Army Surplus? I have some cute ideas for mods.

    To be honest, this is a robot with a Fricking Awesome Machine gun, much MUCH cooler than sharks with lasers on their heads, what mods would u possibly need to add!

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Saturday April 12, 2008 @04:19AM (#23045250) Homepage

    Hospitals, schools, and businesses are being built. Most places are peaceful with some remaining hotspots. The Iraqi army is taking a more active role in dealing with the insurgents and extremists with our armed forces taking on more of a support role.
    So it's back to how it was under Saddam, except now there are also some foreign terrorists and foreign military there? MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
  • by Asic Eng (193332) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @04:30AM (#23045292)
    Ok lets see: you started the Iraq war in 2003, it cost ~$845 billion so far, the occupation costs continue at $195 million per day. There is no way you can use terms like "things are mostly going rather well over there" in this context. Apart from that ~100000 dead are accurately described as a bloodbath.
  • by harry666t (1062422) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (t666yrrah)> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @04:37AM (#23045322)
    > but a robot running the first law of
    > robotics would be incapable of firing
    > the weapon ever.

    And that's how it should be!
  • by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @05:33AM (#23045488) Journal

    Well, I think this comes down to a matter of friend/foe recognition. Humans aren't supposed to kill each other, but this rule is modified in times of war as it is OK to kill "the others". In the same way, cynically, the first law would still apply if enemies were tagged "non-human".

    Actually, in all warfare the enemy is first made to look inhuman. Not only soldiers, but whole nations are bombarded with propaganda (i.e. brainwashed) about the horrible enemy and the necessity to protect their homes, families and way of life.
    America is nowadays bombarded with anti-terrorist propaganda in much the same manner, and the way you treat your prisoners of war^W^W^Wcaptured enemy combatants suggests that you don't think of them as human either.

    Therefore, in order to weasel out of these laws, robots would merely have to do the very same thing humans do.

  • by Wavebreak (1256876) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @06:28AM (#23045686)
    First off, I don't support the Iraq war in any way, shape or form. Regardless, you can't have a war without costs, time spent and casualties. Saying that a war isn't going well because it costs money and people have died and it takes time is incredibly naive. Altho you could make the point that no war can, by definition, go well.
  • Re:my question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by One Childish N00b (780549) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @06:41AM (#23045718) Homepage
    [my question] is why haven't these things been available for years? It seems obvious that some kind of small remote controlled tread based robot with a machine gun would be extremely useful on the battlefield. I mean, it would allow you to hit people that are defended by sniper fire and the like, without worrying about getting hit.

    Um, exactly because of problems like this?
  • by AhtirTano (638534) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @09:29AM (#23046512)
    Iraq is no longer threatening to move its oil currency over to the Euro. Mission Accomplished!
  • by Deadstick (535032) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @09:48AM (#23046644)
    Maybe Asimov should have read more theology.

    Asimov wrote more about theology than you probably have ever read. With all due respect, he could have nailed your hide to the wall in a theological discussion...

    rj

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:17AM (#23046822)
    Automatic drones with weapons should be illegal, in the same category as banned nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. We (attempt to) control the proliferation of weapons which are only practical for killing civilian populations, and armed robots can easily go in the same category.

    It sounds great the idea of saving soldiers lives. But think about when our enemies have armed drones? When they have cheap, easy-to-build, lethal drones that a couple of rebels in the mountains can build with old computer and car parts?
  • So after reading the article and associated links, I gather that:

    1. The U.S. Army commissioned Foster-Miller to modify their TALON remote-controlled vehicle to carry and operate various types of weapons. The modified vehicle is named SWORDS, and erroneously described as a "robot", although it is neither human-like in appearance nor autonomous in operation.

    2. Some time later, the Army canceled the production order, citing an "unexpected movement" of a single test unit.

    3. Simultaneously, the Army purchased, from the same company, a bigger, badder version of the same product [foster-miller.com].

    Folks, this isn't a failed robotic uprising [theregister.co.uk]. It isn't even the over-reaction of a safety-conscious Army Executive [popularmechanics.com]. This is an excuse to kill a little project in order to start a bigger one.

  • Translation: You are fools for believing your biased and slanted corporate-owned media outlets and partisan pundits! MY biased and slanted corporate-owned media outlets and partisan pundits are far superior!
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @11:45AM (#23047414) Journal
    You make the mistake of assuming that

    a) When lancet says 5-600,000 that they mean 500,000 to 600,000, when in fact it means 5.0 - 600,000. (ok a little tongue in cheek, but the lancet study was quite flawed, and significantly overestimated the number of deaths compared to every other study conducted.)

    b) That coalition troops are the ones killing the civilians. This is important. While there are certainly collateral deaths due to american troops engaging resistance or perceived resistance, the majority cause of the deaths has been terrorists.

    Further, if a guerrilla fires an rpg from the middle of a crowd and the return fire kills or maims members of the crowd, how can you reasonably attribute the casualties to anyone other than the guerrilla? He's the one that escalated the engagement up to "total warfare" rules.
  • by budgenator (254554) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @12:20PM (#23047650) Journal
    Consider this,
    1. I can sit in a tank turret, aim the Coax machinegun using the turret elctro-mechanical systems to point it at a target that I'm observing through an electronic imaging system and fire it and it's OK,
    2. Connect the systems to a remote unit via an RF link rather than a hardwire and suddenly it's a "robot" and scary,
    What the difference? This "robot" turned guns on it's fleshy comrades, operator error is much more likely; the guided missiles we've been shooting for half a century are closer to be a "robot" than this glorified RC car is.
  • by kris.montpetit (1265946) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @01:16PM (#23048012)

    Its safe bet someone would get hurt; probably lots of someones. Regardless on your feels about the war in Iraq some things are true: 1. War always requires some sort of damage beyond soldiers and military equipment or it never ends. One of the host socienties must feel enough pain to give up the fight. 2. We have put extraordinary effort into not harming civilan populations, we have done a good job in the historical sense of finging wars but lots of innocent people have still been hurt. Lots of non-militarilay valuable property has been destroyed. 3. Acording to the article summary we have already demonstraited an inability to produce robots that can correctly identify targets and non-targets. There are some who look at Iraq and Vietnam and wonder if our instance on 2 is at least partly to blame for our (I wont say failures, if we are beening intelectually host its not fair), less then total success. So a war fought entirely by proxy with robots(If they worked) might be a very long one. I would image it would only end when it was economicly or enviornmentally (those are really not separte) possible to keep building robots. That would be in many ways worse for the human populations then if we just died on the battle field. Finally we don't know for sure the robots wont work properly but I am not optimistic given fact number three. Hell we are talking about governments here both US and European alike that can't manage to execute their own elections acording to their own rules; electronicly or otherwise. Why do think we could build a robot army again?

    What you are describing sounds exactly like world war I and how it ended. Which in turn makes me hope that anything they hypothetically throw out their would be totally mindless for it's sake. Up to a hundred thousand would die in a single trench battle with only artillery, guns, and bayonets. It took the atom bomb in world war II to kill that many people in the same general time frame. It literally did not stop until Germany was sending in 13 year olds. The allied countries would have followed but there were like 6 of them to 3 axis countries..Numbers and higher ground were really all that counted

    I guess we are due for a similarly horrific and wasteful conflict though, since we are again at that point where we dont really know how to utilize our new technology in combat (as this article quite deftly points out

  • by g0dsp33d (849253) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @02:34PM (#23048480)
    No, its an infinite loop with a conditional break().

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