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Robotics Security The Military Technology

Electronic Warfare Insects Coming Soon 187

Posted by timothy
from the sure-makes-me-sleep-better dept.
Mike writes "British defence giant BAE Systems is creating a series of tiny electronic spiders, insects and snakes that could become the eyes and ears of soldiers on the battlefield, helping to save thousands of lives, and they claim that prototypes could be on the front line by the end of the year. A fascinating development to be sure, but who thinks this won't be misused domestically for spying and evidence gathering?" Included in the story is a link to a creepy little (scripted, rendered) demo video of these robots in action.
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Electronic Warfare Insects Coming Soon

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  • by gnutoo (1154137) * on Sunday May 04, 2008 @06:18PM (#23294946) Journal

    Big Brother knows who buys them.

  • Ha! That's funny. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by junglee_iitk (651040) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @06:25PM (#23294978)

    ...helping to save thousands of lives

    Yeah, right!
  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @06:36PM (#23295050) Homepage Journal
    Actually they probably will save soldier's lives. That doesn't mean they aren't creepy or that they won't be misused by Governments, but having little spybots to reconnoiter, especially in an urban setting, most certainly will save some lives.
  • battery life (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nguy (1207026) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @06:38PM (#23295058)
    That all sounds real dandy, but battery life is the achilles heel: these bugs and critters are only going to last a few minutes. Real insects last longer because they have much more energy-efficient locomotion and control, they have efficient fuel cells, and they replenish their energy supplies constantly by feeding.
  • save lives? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pizzach (1011925) <pizzach&gmail,com> on Sunday May 04, 2008 @06:40PM (#23295066) Homepage

    "British defence giant BAE Systems is creating a series of tiny electronic spiders, insects and snakes that could become the eyes and ears of soldiers on the battlefield, helping to save thousands of lives, and they claim that prototypes could be on the front line by the end of the year. A fascinating development to be sure, but who thinks this won't be misused domestically for spying and evidence gathering?"
    Great, now you're going to tell me how guns, missiles, tanks and nuclear weapons save millions of lives.
  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @06:55PM (#23295158) Homepage
    The idea is that they'll take out money and use it to take enemy lives instead of friendly ones. I think your cynicism meter needs adjusting.
  • Re:Not exactly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jalet (36114) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @07:02PM (#23295234) Homepage
    Excepted that when you send a nuclear device somewhere by pushing a button in your presidential or dictatorial office, you may risk receiving another back directly onto you as retortion.

    Instead, if you send poor guys on a distant battlefield to take lives and have theirs being taken, while staying in your office, the risk is not exactly the same for you...

    That's why people in charge of nuclear armed nations prefer the second solution : THEY won't die.
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @07:07PM (#23295280) Homepage
    They will save some civilian lives, too. The soldiers will send one of these into the room to have a look around instead of throwing a grenade in and then rushing in guns blazing, if only because it's safer for them. They may also sometimes air-drop a few onto a building they've been told is a "terrorist" safe house to make sure it isn't really a child-care center before bombing it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 04, 2008 @07:09PM (#23295296)
    Stop confusing the anti-war crowd with pesky things like insight and facts. Thinking makes their brains hurt.
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @07:21PM (#23295368) Homepage
    > I thought soldiers were on a battlefield precisely to take as many lives as
    > they could...

    They are usually there to take and hold territory by any means necessary. If the enemy resists somebody gets killed but if they run away or surrender that works too.
  • by njcoder (657816) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @07:24PM (#23295382)

    I prefer my spiders to be 20ft tall and wielding giant laser canons of death.... Who needs a covert force when you can have one that kicks ass and takes names?
    20ft is insignificant compared to the habitable surface area of the planet. And it would be too impractical to create enough for your world domination plans. Which is pretty much the only reason for needing a 20ft tall spider that kicks ass and takes names.

    A 20ft spider would also be pretty obvious so you loose out on the paranoia factor of covert devices. You may only have enough covert little machines to oppress 10% of the world, but the other 90% will live in fear of wondering if they're in that 10% or not.
  • by holophrastic (221104) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @07:51PM (#23295592)
    Heh, you know I laughed reading your reply, but then I cried. Now I'm thinking that you'd have to worry about them suing you for breaking it because that probably gives them suitable (ha) cause to review the surveillance -- even if they didn't have legal cause prior to the destruction.
  • by lordofthefunk (1284188) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @07:55PM (#23295616)
    If this technology ever does prove to save lives on the battlefield, it would only be the lives of the "good guys". The lives of the opposing side would be destroyed with ever-increasing efficiency. Of course, if you believe that the foes that Britain will face in the foreseeable future are intrinsically evil and deserve to be destroyed with ever-increasing efficiency, then this is fine. If you believe that destroying lives full-stop with ever-increasing efficiency is ok, that this is fine. Another way to help save thousands of lives on the battlefield would be not illegally invade sovereign countries with thinly-veiled justifications designed to cover up one's own economic and emperial ambitions.
  • Re:save lives? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by couchslug (175151) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @07:57PM (#23295628)
    "Great, now you're going to tell me how guns, missiles, tanks and nuclear weapons save millions of lives."

    They have and do, but sometimes (when deterrence fails) at the cost of other lives.

    WWII is an excellent example. It took killing millions of Germans, Japanese, Italians, and other Axis types to halt their enthusiastic killing of others. There not being a non-violent option for dealing with such folk (non-violence just meant surrender to extermination) it was perfectly logical and reasonable to save Allied lives by killing heaps of Axis humans. Those who snivel about it now are conveniently distant from having to actually deal with any similar problems. ;)

    It worked superbly, like it or not.
  • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @08:08PM (#23295724)

    If this technology ever does prove to save lives on the battlefield, it would only be the lives of the "good guys"
    Shirley you can't be serious. That is the point of war. To win by killing your enemy faster than they can kill you. And there is no "good" or "bad" here. Only winner and loser. I guess it's just a question of which side you would like to be on. Personally I like any tech that tends to result in the destruction of simple machines rather than humans. There is nothing stopping the other side from doing the same. Are there any geeks who would not like to see wars turn into gigantic "battlefield" bot contests with armed bots shooting at other armed bots? For the sake of humanity I do hope that that is precisely what wars become. Or even taking it a step further and standardizing on some kind of networked multiplayer video game so that even machines need not be destroyed, just bits in memory.
  • by maxume (22995) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @08:23PM (#23295800)
    The op was decrying war as something that never had to happen, if only we all just got along. WWII is a sterling example of a war that happened because the other side didn't want to get along. The point is that while it is unfortunate that there are aggressors that are willing to go to war, it isn't stupid or war mongering to defend yourself from an aggressor, it is necessary.

    The snarky reason why Tonkin and Vietnam and Iraq don't get mentioned is that they aren't wars, but the real reason is that they aren't nearly as morally unambiguous as WWII was, especially after the extent of the crimes against humanity was uncovered.

    What it comes down to is that one unjust war doesn't prove that all war is unjust.

    The point about the fake incidents not being bilateral is that side B can't do a whole lot about the actions of side A (other than fight back) once side A starts rolling in tanks.
  • orwellian bs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) * on Sunday May 04, 2008 @08:40PM (#23295916) Journal
    that could become the eyes and ears of soldiers on the battlefield, helping to save thousands of lives,

    so, lemme get this straight - on a battlefield where, ostensibly, some kind o f a battle is going on, where people are murdering each other in cold blood, these little magical toys are going to prevent thousands of people from dying, in a battle, where people are murdering each other in cold blood . Riiiiiight. Let's unpack the happy ass bullshit and get to the core: these will be implemented in order to protect and project the interests of the EMPIRE (American, Chinese, Russian, whatever) that has the money to build these things. Saving LIVES by PREVENTING DEATHS is not part of the equation. That's the province of clever diplomacy.

    And the best part? I'm sure some locals who are finding these expensive little toys invading their resource rich homeland will develop a cheap bug zapper that costs $8 to build and can take out thousands of them at a go.

    RS

  • by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Sunday May 04, 2008 @09:03PM (#23296060) Homepage Journal

    The snarky reason why Tonkin and Vietnam and Iraq don't get mentioned is that they aren't wars...

    Bullhockey.

    Tell THIS girl [wikipedia.org] that she wasn't in a war zone.

    Calling it "a police action", "counter-insurgency", or BY any other marginally more "pleasant" euphemism does NOT change the rules of the game.

    It's war, plain and simple. Kill them before they have a chance to kill you. Period.

    ...unless you want to tell me the name really DID change to "Freedom Fries". :P

  • Re:Pigs with bugs. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by triffid_98 (899609) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @10:19PM (#23296504)
    Crime lords and drug gangs only have power because our government gives it to them. Make gambling, drugs and sex legal and you take away a rather significant fraction of their revenue stream. Police and your friendly government agencies will be abusing their new found surveillance powers, it's not a question of if, it's merely a question of when.

    Go live in a city where the crime lords and drug gangs run the place. Then you can come back and talk to us about thugs and bullies.
  • by DaedalusHKX (660194) on Sunday May 04, 2008 @11:26PM (#23296880) Journal
    I hate to burst your bubble, but there are actually "bad people" out there. However, those that are deemed "bad guys" are generally not always so. And those doing the "deeming" are not always good guys either.

    For example, the countries whose people can afford this kind of hardware are not countries that have fought any defensive wars in any recent history (past 50 years or so). All wars fought by rich countries are fought for offense, conquest, loot, plunder, and unofficially, rape. Yeah, it might not be penis and vagina rape anymore, but as anyone who has had his or her home vandalized by uninvited thugs, the feeling of violation is quite tangible. It is always legitimate to exterminate aggressors, but how many of those clamoring for more hardware to "save lives" are merely saving the lives of those who kill on demand, rather than out of necessity?

    Take Vietnam... what changed? What did "we" accomplish there? A slow surrender to the Cong instead of simply letting them do what they were going to? Does anyone truly believe that anything at all OTHER than that would've been accomplished? For a so called "christian" nation, the vast majorities of "god fearing Christians" seem to miss the fact that we cannot go and tamper with other people's homes, until we have set our OWN homes in order. Judging by the vast foreclosures out there, I doubt that the majority even HAVE their own houses anymore, or ever did. Guess those "god fearing Christians" have missed that lovely part about "neither borrower, nor lender be." Even their very money supplies are based on borrowing money into existence. Debt as money. Something that their so called "Christian faith" treats with disdain... debt.. and usury (interest) is seen as a great and wonderful thing.

    Oh well, they just believe what the priest caste tells them to, not those pesky bits that contrasted to their actual way of life would make little sense.

    Onto the topic of this subject. These defense companies only serve two purposes. To construct tools that will be used by various governments and related agencies to oppress their own populaces, and of course, to help said governments borrow their relative populaces into absolute poverty. See, most of this hardware costs a LOT of money, even when it turns out to be worthless, useless, obsolete, or unjustified, and governments spend money without really looking at ROI. There is little ROI in government operations. All it is, is plain and simple spending. Aimless, pointless and limitless.

    Until you look at the greater backdrop, that the money must be spent into existence and that friends of the rulers must be the first to receive its value, before its issuance can devalue the existing stock of debt based currency. It is brilliant, in reality, and it would even be admirable, if it weren't such a sad state of affairs.
  • I thought soldiers were on a battlefield precisely to take as many lives as they could...

    To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

    -- Sun Tzu

  • by Nick Flandry (1217626) on Monday May 05, 2008 @02:16AM (#23297700)
    The sophomoric smarminess of this comment is second only to the monumental ignorance of military doctrine and battlefield necessity. No, kiddo, your anecdotal understanding of these things is flawed. What exactly is your objection to being protected by the greatest force for human liberation that has ever existed? Or do you simply think the lives of your fellow citizens have less value than those of our enemies? Providing they participate in actions of which you disapprove, of course. As in the imaginary, Clintonesque scenarios cited. What gave you the misguided notion that you're more clever than anyone in the military? Didn't you go to public school, too?
  • by religious freak (1005821) on Monday May 05, 2008 @02:56AM (#23297848)
    DAMNIT! Where are my mod points when I need them...

    If GP doesn't agree with military action, so be it, but to personally insult those who are putting their butts on the line is repugnant and arrogant.
  • by famebait (450028) on Monday May 05, 2008 @03:30AM (#23297982)
    They will boost the government's confidence that they can win and keep their losses down, which will lower the bar on going to war, which will in turn get _more_ civilians and friendly soldiers killed in total, and will generate more enemies that will target friendly civilians.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2008 @03:42AM (#23298040)
    I love how military technology is said to "save lives." There is no weapon that has ever saved any lives because, by definition, weapons are meant to kill. Each weapon is a more efficient killing device.

    Edit: I'll qualify that definition. Military weapons are only meant to kill. I suppose there are some weapons that are intended to be non-lethal, although it's evident that police/military will find ways to make them lethal (tasers - enough said, rubber bullets - purposefully targeting people's heads)

    They might save the lives of people on "our side," but that's it.

    It also raises a more important problem: if we can wage war that doesn't cost very many lives, war becomes very "cheap." It's very evident in Iraq; some reports put the death count over a million Iraqis vs. ~4000 US troops.

    I really, really despise the idea of robotic warfare. There is no possible way that it can end well. Whoever can build more robots will have no moral problem killing anyone that stands in their way; it's the age old government solution: throw money, which buys robots, at the "problem" (dissidents, foreigners, etc.).
  • Re:Pigs with bugs. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tucuxi (1146347) on Monday May 05, 2008 @03:59AM (#23298126)

    There will be mafias wherever there are groups or individuals with interests that run contrary to those of the state/society; you can't get rid of crime just by legalizing a few of the currently-illegal interests. Don't want to pay your taxes? Want to get your money back without having to sue the debtor and wait forever? Want something that the owner won't sell?

    Not that legalizing marihuana would be negative, I'm just pointing out that crime is here to stay...

  • Re:save lives? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hal_Porter (817932) on Monday May 05, 2008 @12:48PM (#23302090)
    I think nukes did. Otherwise my parents' generation would have ended up fighting the Communists just like my grandparents' generation fought the Fascists.
  • Re:save lives? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by couchslug (175151) on Monday May 05, 2008 @12:49PM (#23302108)
    "So you're saying those who live in the middle east should kill USian politicians?"

    The decision to act or not is a matter of perceived results.

    Killing does not always work, or work in the way that those killing intended.

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