Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Robotics The Internet

The Inside Story of the Armed Robot Pullout Rumor 105

Posted by Zonk
from the see-how-these-things-get-started dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It appears that the initial rumor of the SWORDS robots being pulled out of Iraq — and its subsequent correction — were just that: sensationalizing in the blogosphere. Popular Mechanics has a lengthy update to its original scoop, digging into the sketchy responses from defense contractors when pressed about the bot's actual duties in battle. From the article: 'Although others have used our story to generate a false online rumor about these armed UGVs, the nature of those "technical issues" that Gotvald mentioned in his statement, and that Qinetiq and Foster-Miller have yet to address directly, remains a mystery. Until someone can explain why SWORDS lost its funding, and what exactly it is — and isn't — being used for in Iraq, the rumors are likely to continue. If this is the dawn of the era of robotic infantry, things are off to a decidedly rocky start.""
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Inside Story of the Armed Robot Pullout Rumor

Comments Filter:
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @08:35PM (#23098254) Homepage
    The US uses smart bombs designed to NOT kill innocent people, to save the civillian lives. it avoids churches (who am i kidding, mosques), etc. back in the day Hannibal would just start in the north and kill or enslave everyone till he hit the water in the south. Much closer but still back int he day, it was carpet bombing back to the stone age, sorry if we hit the daycare.

    Smart bombs are a tiny, tiny fraction of ordinance dropped -- they just kept replaying the footage of the laser guided bomb dropping down a chimney to make you think all war we wage is nice and tidy like that. The vast majority are traditional bombs not all that much more accurate than the ones dropped in WWII -- which means, like in WWII, you need to drop a lot of them to make sure you hit anything, and they surely are going to cause "collateral damage". We've hit plenty of daycares in both Gulf Wars, and most of the time there isn't so much as a "sorry". Between that, and the "we don't do body counts" (meaning we don't measure our collateral damage), I have a hard time believing that the U.S. military really cares that much about saving innocents.

    Of course I'm not saying the U.S. is like the Mongol hordes or anything, raping and pillaging wantonly. Then again in the global political environment, and the realities of Iraq, we really couldn't be either. We're not trying to literally conquer Iraq by beating the whole country into submission, so if we started acting like it, well, two things would happen: 1) the insurgency in Iraq would explode to levels orders of magnitude beyond what we've seen and 2) our few remaining allies would bail on us, and we would probably start to figure out in short order why our trade deficit is a bad thing.

    We're doing our best, and we're a lot better than plenty of countries you could name, but lets not pretend that we're actually doing all that well. It's only by admitting our failings that we can keep getting better; if we just assume we're the best and that's that, we will surely backslide (and I think this has very much happened).

    Do you really think that swords is going to be fullt autonomous, like there isnt going to be a pilot to make sure. Of course there will be remote control to overide.

    Yeah I was very suspicious when I heard the story, because everything I'd heard was that the military was 100% committed to always having a human decision maker in the firing loop for these robots. And I think anyone who has watched Terminator, War Games, Matrix, or Short Circuit for that matter would agree that is a wise decision.

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @09:19PM (#23098720) Journal
    Every bit is sacred? Is that how robots do it, a whole bunch of 1's headed in a race to get to the 0 first? The two bits become a nibble, nibbles become bytes, bytes become words, and pretty soon you've got the start of a new robot?

    (All you old timers...how long since you've heard of four bits as a nibble? Wasn't that the name of an Apple magazine?)
  • by Enigma2175 (179646) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:48PM (#23099904) Homepage Journal

    A critical distinction though is that after you enter the target into the planes computer you still need to hold the weapon release("pickle" switch) to allow the computer to drop the bomb. The computer may make the choice of exactly when to drop the bomb but a human still has complete control over the computer at the the time. These new robots take that human right out of the equation and are meant to operate without any human guidance.
    Did you even RTFA? Here, let me quote part of it for you:

    Every UGV maker we've spoken to has stressed the importance of having a "man in the loop" when dealing with armed robots. As Predator drones have proven, an unmanned vehicle is capable of friendly fire, but the decision to engage will always be made by a human operator.

    Doesn't sound like they are "meant to operate without any human guidance" to me.

  • by MixMasterAnonCoward (1273834) on Wednesday April 16, 2008 @11:54PM (#23099938)
    I recently published a law journal article that was featured on BoingBoing today that addresses many of these issues, particularly with respect to autonomous and brain-interfaced weapons. A summary can be found here: http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2008/04/neuroweapons_war_cr.html [mindhacks.com]. The article itself can be found here: http://organizations.lawschool.cornell.edu/ilj/issues/41.1/CIN109.pdf [cornell.edu].
  • Smart bombs are a tiny, tiny fraction of ordinance dropped -- they just kept replaying the footage of the laser guided bomb dropping down a chimney to make you think all war we wage is nice and tidy like that. The vast majority are traditional bombs
    Sorry, your information is out of date.

    Concurrent to the invasion of Iraq the US Air Force started fitting JDAMs to its extant stockpile of munitions -- a small mass-produced pod attached to an extant weapon that turns a dumb bomb into a smart bomb.

    Last number I heard, the dumb/smart bomb ratio was at 50/50 and rising.

    I have a hard time believing that the U.S. military really cares that much about saving innocents.
    They don't so much care about saving innocents, as they care about not making life difficult for themselves. And, in most places they operate, that means not hitting a church or blowing up an innocent without either advance warning or a clear intention on doing so.
  • by bagsc (254194) on Thursday April 17, 2008 @05:55AM (#23101800) Journal
    "Smart bombs are a tiny, tiny fraction of ordinance dropped -- they just kept replaying the footage of the laser guided bomb dropping down a chimney to make you think all war we wage is nice and tidy like that."

    1991 called - they want their facts back.

    2002: 60% of munitions in Afghanistan were "smart"
    -DOD
    2003: Operation Iraqi Freedom - "Smart bombs like the JDAM have comprised 80 percent of the munitions used during this operation." USAF

"Of course power tools and alcohol don't mix. Everyone knows power tools aren't soluble in alcohol..." -- Crazy Nigel

Working...