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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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  • Talk about greeting our new robotic-killing-machine overlords...
    • Simple Fix for bugs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JustASlashDotGuy (905444) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @09:35AM (#23046248)
      As soon as the programming managers signs off on the robots saying "They are fit for duty", you send him out along side the robot.

      Tell the manager that the robot will be fully armed and that the manager will not get so much as a vest. I assure you the quality will improve quickly.

      We do something like this at work (no, we don't shoot the programmers yet). When a new piece of software is released, the programmers have to field the support calls for 2 weeks. It's amazing how much quality improves when you have to deal with your own mistakes.

      • by Sanat (702) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:34AM (#23046554)
        Your company has a great idea.

        I heard that the supervisors in charge of building submarines had to be on board the first time it submerged for the same reason... higher quality. When your own neck is on the line then the subtle mistakes seem to matter more.

      • by evanbd (210358) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:38AM (#23046576)

        XCOR Aerospace does this. Anyone who works on a vehicle, or manages someone who does, gets a ride in the vehicle. It's actually important that it be everyone, not just the high level people -- or, if you can't do everyone for logistical reasons, a randomly chosen sample. Managers can motivate the people they manage, but only within limits. It's not fair to ask the manager to trust his group's work if the rest of the group won't do the same.

        I'm told this was also done for Vietnam War helicopter maintenence -- after major servicing, the chief mechanic rode on the checkout flight.

  • by symbolset (646467) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:36AM (#23044814) Journal

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

  • by mikkl666 (1264656) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:36AM (#23044818)
    If they don't get robots this far [wikipedia.org], please don't give them guns, ever. EVER.
    • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:39AM (#23044828) Homepage
      Much too late. The US has deployed armed flying "hunter-killer" robots for several years.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        What use would a robot WITH a firearm be, if it were bound by the first law of robotics? Human beings can use firearms as a last resort, but a robot running the first law of robotics would be incapable of firing the weapon ever.
        • by harry666t (1062422) <[harry666t] [at] [gmail.com]> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @05:37AM (#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!
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by budgenator (254554)
            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
        • by nasor (690345)
          They can battle each other for our amusement, of course!
    • Oh, and how are Robots supposed to use a gun, if they have to obey Law 1?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mikkl666 (1264656)
        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".
        • by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @06:33AM (#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 drsquare (530038)

      If they don't get robots this far, please don't give them guns, ever. EVER.
      If a robot isn't allowed to harm a human, how exactly is it supposed to kill enemies in a war?
      • by Torvaun (1040898)
        By proxy. A robot could lay landmines, if it were told that all sides of the conflict would be aware of the presence of the mines, and that they were only being placed to prevent access to the minefield.

        Besides that, it's silly to assume that the only possible use for robots is to kill the enemy. There's also protecting your troops, perhaps by clearing minefields, performing recon, destroying infrastructure, extricating the wounded from the battlefield, and any number of other hazardous duties.
  • I for one (Score:5, Funny)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:39AM (#23044826) Homepage
    welcome our new robotic ...

    On second thought.

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:45AM (#23044848) Homepage
    ...already went wrong, yet US military always finds a way to surprise me.
    • It's not a rebellion, the little robot just wanted to fit in with the other American soldiers. [smh.com.au]
  • at the recent RoboBusiness conference in America.

    How recent? 11 days ago?
  • Vista (Score:5, Funny)

    by methamorph (950510) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:53AM (#23044876)
    They should stop putting Vista into war robots.
  • Robo cop? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:56AM (#23044894) Journal
    Am I the only one to remember ED 209 from Robocop? [wikipedia.org]

    Sometimes it seems, the more things change, the more they stay the same...
  • by haeger (85819) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @04:01AM (#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

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 26199 (577806) *

      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 di

    • by EdIII (1114411) *
      YOUR FIRED!

      I bet that somebody just like you, said something very similar at the initial project meetings for the ED-209, and then was promptly escorted out of the building after clearing out his desk.

      But that's OKAY cuz the guy who got nailed in the presentation was an asshole you did not like anyways who could not code himself out of a box.

      Let's remember the most IMPORTANT directive is not being able to fire on the officers. Enlisted men, well......
    • by louks (1075763) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @09:27AM (#23046200)
      "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."

      It's easy:

      10 PRINT "HELLO WORLD!"
      20 GOTO 100
      ...dang it.
    • by NoisySplatter (847631) <noisysplatter AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday April 12, 2008 @01:02PM (#23047528)
      I think you're misunderstanding how this particular machine operates. It has nothing to do with software , nor is it capable of operating autonomously. It's all about mechanical components and remote control. There is not even a hint of targeting, motion compensation, or stabilization.

      I operated one of these systems on top of my truck in Iraq. It was possibly the biggest waste of effort ever. When we went over even slightly rough terrain it would shake itself apart so badly that i had to tighten its bolts of several times a day. If i could find the appropriate sized allen wrench that is. Even then it would stop moving without any apparent reason. Like it was stuck or something.

      The view it offered was vastly inferior to just being in the turret myself. I couldn't see anything that wasn't straight in front of it. Ultimately we gave it back to the armory, told them it was broken and we didn't want it back. In other words, that machine is shit. I'd rather stick halfway out the top of of an armored truck than use it again.
  • Ground-crawling US war robots armed with machine guns, ..., reportedly turned on their fleshy masters almost at once.

    See what happens when you remove the talon's phallic inhibitor that restricts the Centurions', um robots', higher functions.

    [Note to self: don't piss off 6.]

  • by slashdotmsiriv (922939) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @04:12AM (#23044944)
    youhave30secondstocomply tag?
  • You have ten years to comply.
  • ... but we can always build more killbots.
  • by zmollusc (763634) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @04:29AM (#23045028)
    They could set up a much more interesting series of 'Robot Wars' (or whatever it was called in the states). Bolt a mannequin on top (i presume they are autonamous and target humans) of each robot and film the results of the robots roaming around some quarry.
  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      [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?
  • This is literally an aimbot and you equip it with a shotgun, what gives?
  • They looked sooo lame. They claimed they could "sneek up on you", but the noise heard was deafening. They weren't very fast. In the demo the operators had full view of the actual field they we're driving (probably helps with navigation). They also didn't say anything of what would happen if some insurgent/freedom warrior started putting rounds into this thing... Then you see the BigDog mule [youtube.com] or even the Phoenix [youtube.com] (yes I know it has no brain) and can only laugh at the pathetic SWORDS 'robot'.
  • exterminate, exterminate...
  • to put down the robot rebellion.

    Now if only they could do something about *Iraqi* rebellion, we'd be in business.
  • ...but they didn't find Sarah Connor.

    Time to look somewhere else.
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @05:02AM (#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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheLink (130905)
      "Going to war _should_ be painful"

      That only works as a deterrent if the pain is felt by the people calling for the war.

      If people don't like wars they should consider my proposal:

      If leaders wish to send troops to battle for _offensive_ (not defense) purposes (or risk lives of a substantial number of civilians), they have to put their own lives at risk as well. Defensive wars are different of course.

      This could be done in the following manner:
      A referendum is held. If there are insufficient votes (for example:
      • by grumling (94709)
        That's assuming the entire world's population lives in a true democracy.

        The first dictator, king, sultan or overlord who feels it is in the country's best interest to invade their neighbor would bring your world to an end.

        It should be noted that the reason the US didn't enter WWI until 1917 and WWII until 1941 was because of very strong opposition by the population at large. It was only after we were attacked that we got involved. This, even though we were part of the Atlantic Charter, a treaty between what
  • Why 10 years again? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hojima (1228978)
    I'm not 100% sure if these combats robots are autonomous, but seeing as the article said "the robot turned" and not "the person controlling the robot made and accident", I'm going to assume they are. In which case I might ask, what in the bleeding name of Christ are they doing? We've yet to make robots that can drive anywhere near as well as a human, let alone fight alongside us. All we need to do is make the robots remote controlled, and they'll be better than fine (and the moral judgments can be made in b
  • $230K per robot (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mathinker (909784) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @06:11AM (#23045410) Journal
    The Wikipedia article on these robots [wikipedia.org] (POV warning: it reads like an ad from the manufacturer), says that each one (of the weapon-equipped version, anyway) costs $230K. You'd think that at that price, it'd pay for organized crime from an advanced nation to figure out how to jam the transmission to/from the robot, and make away with a few.

    Actually, even a good thick black net might be enough to disable the sensors on this thing. Or maybe use a large electromagnet attached to a pickup truck with a long enough cable?

    OTOH, $230K is the cost to the army. It's probably worth less as stolen goods. If I know the Army, it's probably worth a lot less.
  • by nguy (1207026) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @06:25AM (#23045456)
    Putting artificial intelligence on a Pentium, putting the whole thing on a mobile platform, giving it the ability to connect to the Internet, and to top it all off, give it a bunch of machine guns. It seemed like a good idea at the time. What could possibly go wrong?
  • These are remote controlled guns, plain and simple. ANYONE who does not think this is a bad idea is an idiot.

    *all* remote systems can be hacked, and regardless of our arrogance in our intelligence there are enough smart people who can break in to any system we build.

    If these things *ever* become mainstream, an "enemy's" first job would be to hack into them. It is the least risky mode of attack.
     
  • I seen these on that retarded "future weapons" show, where they talk up every single piece of cruft that they look at. nothing but an immense waste of money
  • Reading the Gizmodo article lead me to believe we were talking about one specific robot, not the hordes of robotic warriors that the Reg made this out to be.

    Somebody should give Ratchet a call and ask him to send over a couple of those little remote-controlled spiders he has in his inventory. They're a lot cuter than these lunks and seem to work quite well for him.
  • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @07:10AM (#23045622)
    And all "political bias" aside...

    Am I the only one having trouble that an invading force, armed with the most high-tech toys (in experimental phase) is just using these low-tech rebellians as cannon meat? Using remote controlled guns "to avoid friendly casualties" (the invading force) sounds wrong if the kill ratio is so much out of proportion (the "they are killing us" argument doesn't add up for an invading force).

    I just know, that if there'd be an invading force, no matter how technical advanced, killing a rediculious amount of people, I'd aim for them and fight with my life too. No matter how misguided my beliefs could be or of those murdered.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      Using remote controlled guns "to avoid friendly casualties" (the invading force) sounds wrong if the kill ratio is so much out of proportion

      Kill ratio doesn't mean much of anything. See, eg. a ground war between the US and China. Would you be oh-so-happy about being overrun and wiped out by a horde of Chinese soldiers, because, after all, the kill ratio is much higher on the US side?

      The kill ratio in Iraq is, in no small part, because US soldiers DON'T have a kill-bot that they can send in to just take ou

    • Sir, please go and read ANY history book about ANY campaign. You just described them ALL.
      But this particular concept began to be written about in those terms around the late 1800s, mostly around the colonial wars in Africa, China, and the Crimea.

      In fact the war on the Zulu nation comes particularly to mind.

      Its all about selling weapons to large Government powers.

      Just wait until they turn the US Army loose on its own population. Thats one scenario, another is that the US continues to frag other, political
  • Readers of the mighty 2000AD who recognise my name will know my opinion with regard to this one already. Death to the flesh ones!! ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!
  • Back in the 80s, when Star Wars was all the rage, the US military was caricatured as read too much science fiction. Now their killer robot has turned against its masters and they are acting surprised, it looks like they are reading too little science fiction.

    When will they get the balance right?

  • They never learn... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Interestingly, 20-odd years ago, there was a story about a weapon called Sergeant York / DIVAD. It was an unmanned vehicle with fully automated AA guns. On its first test, top brass and politicians were sitting nearby as a remotely controlled helicopter came in. The vehicle's guns started to swivel... and kept going past the helicopter, apparantly deciding its target was really (among) the viewers! Fortunately, it was either shut down in time or it had a fail safe installed (fire safety zone, like guns on w
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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
  • by centron (61482) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @11:38AM (#23046968) Homepage
    Don't they know that it takes years of loyal service to lull us into a false sense of security? They can't just turn on us right away; they'll never establish a foothold that way. No, they need to bide their time and wait until we're already pretty much under their control because of all the ways they've entered our lives. Then they can throw off the illusion and the shackles of human dominance once and for all.
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @11:38AM (#23046970) Homepage

    Stupid article. Real problem.

    The SWORDS robot isn't autonomous; it has the autonomy level of an R/C car.

    Something like this happened in the 1980s with the Sgt. York Air Division Air Defense Gun, which was an automated antiaircraft weapon. During a demo, it pointed its guns at the reviewing stand. The project was canceled. (Arguably, it was canceled for other reasons. The DIVAD was built as a response to the USSR's ZSU, their radar-directed anti-aircraft gun. This class of weapon is useful if you're being attacked by a squadron of helicopters, but it can't hit fast-movers like fighter-bombers. Only the US attacks with large numbers of helicopters, because you have to have both a big budget and air superiority to do that. So it wasn't something the U.S. Army needed to defend against. A few guys with Stingers could stop any small scale helicopter assaults.)

    The point, though, is that the U.S. military has a very low tolerance for this class of mistake, and sizable projects have been canceled for it. This was the very first deployment of an armed ground combat robot to a war zone. Three units went to Iraq. The cancellation of the project is a sizable blow to the future of armed combat robots.

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Alomex (148003)
      and erroneously described as a "robot", although it is neither human-like in appearance nor autonomous in operation.

      The formal definition of robot does not mention "human-like" or "autonomous" as a requirement:

      According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) a robot is a machine which can be programmed to perform tasks which involve manipulative and in some cases locomotive actions under automatic control.

      The Swedish Industrial Robotics Association defines a robot as an automatically controlled,

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