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Robotics The Military

Ethical Killing Machines 785

Posted by kdawson
from the i-for-one-welcome dept.
ubermiester writes "The New York Times reports on research to develop autonomous battlefield robots that would 'behave more ethically in the battlefield than humans.' The researchers claim that these real-life terminators 'can be designed without an instinct for self-preservation and, as a result, no tendency to lash out in fear. They can be built without anger or recklessness ... and they can be made invulnerable to ... "scenario fulfillment," which causes people to absorb new information more easily if it agrees with their pre-existing ideas.' Based on a recent report stating that 'fewer than half of soldiers and marines serving in Iraq said that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect, and 17 percent said all civilians should be treated as insurgents,' this might not be all that dumb an idea."
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Ethical Killing Machines

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  • Ethical vs Moral (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @03:55PM (#25890293) Homepage Journal

    "The New York Times reports on research to develop autonomous battlefield robots that would 'behave more ethically in the battlefield than humans.'

    Maybe I'm being a bit pedantic here, but "ethics" is a professional code - for instance, it is completely ethical by military codes of ethics to kill an armed combatant, but not to kill a civilian. It is unethical (and illegal) for a medical doctor to salk about your illness, but it's not unethical for me to.

    The waterboarding and other torture at Gitmo was immoral; shamefully immoral, but was ethical.

    The advantage to a killing robot is that it has no emotions. The disadvantage to a killing robot is ironically that it has no emotions.

    It can't feel compassion after it's blown its enemiy's arm off. But it can't feel vengeance, either. It's a machine, just like any other weapon.

    And like an M-16, its use can either be ethical or unethical, moral or immoral, moral yet unethical or immoral yet ethical.

  • Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iamwhoiamtoday (1177507) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:00PM (#25890373)
    I was just watching the into to the first "Tomb Raider" movie, where Lara destroys "Simon" (the killer robot that she uses for morning warmup) Robots... I must say, I don't like the idea behind robots fighting our wars, because that means that "acceptable risks" become a thing of the part, and we are Far more likely to "militarily intervene". Aka: "Less risk to our troops" can translate into "we go into more wars" which is something I don't support... wars benefit companies, and lead to the death of thousands. If the lives lost aren't American Lives, does it still matter? in my opinion, YES.
  • by Nerdposeur (910128) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:04PM (#25890427) Journal
    • If it malfunctions and kills a bunch of civilians or friendly soldiers, was the imperfect design/testing process unethical?
    • What if it has a security flaw that allows it to be taken over by the enemy?

    Just the first couple I can think of...

  • by Syncerus (213609) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:05PM (#25890445)

    for defeat on the battlefield.

    Soldiers are supposed to want to fight. If you want the Peace Corps, send in the Peace Corps. If you want the Marine Corps, send in the Marine Corps.

    The whole things sounds like a bunch of Leftist grad students angling for funding. The concept, given the current state of technology, is a pathetic attempt at political correctness.

    Politicians are supposed to create policy, not the military. Once the decision has been made by lawfully elected officials to use military force, it is the duty of the military to implement that decision, not second guess it.

    The way the intro to the article is framed indicates a complete knowledge vacuum on the part of the framer. This is the exact equivalent of having your nuclear defense program run by Martin Sheen.

  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:06PM (#25890481) Homepage Journal
    Here's where I see the value of a correctly ethical killing machine:

    Enforcing a border between two groups of humans that would otherwise be killing each other, and making that border 100% impenetrable.

    To do this, you need more than just a simple robot that has a GPS unit and shoots everything that moves within a predetermined rectangle. You need a CHEAP simple robot that has a GPS unit and shoots everything that moves in a predetermined rectangle; cheap enough so that you can deploy them thickly enough that their weapons overlap to two robots over.

    But it will never be moral.
  • Humane wars (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitalhermit (113459) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:07PM (#25890501) Homepage

    Automated killing machines were banned at the Geneva convention. This is generally a good thing when we're sending real, live humans (versus the walking undead) to fight our wars. It would be completely inhumane (haha) and tilt the outcome of a war towards those who can afford to develop such technology. That is, if one country can afford killer robots and another can't, then the former has no deterrent to invading the latter.

    But imagine if all wars were fought by proxy. Instead of sending people, we send machines. Let the machines battle it out. To be really civil we should also limit the power and effectiveness of our killer robots, and the number of machines that can enter the battlefield at once. Of course, at some point every country will be able to build to the maximum effective specification. At that point it will be a battle of strategy. The next obvious step is to do away with the machines entirely and just get a chessboard.

    Whoever wins gets declared the winner.

    Makes perfect sense.

    Thanks for reading,
    M B Dyson

    CyberDyne Systems

  • Wrong Wrong Wrong (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Orig_Club_Soda (983823) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:07PM (#25890509) Journal
    Why do we insist on trying to sanitize the realities of life!? There is no ethic in killing people. Its either necessary or unnecessary. War should be as brutal and as ugly as possible. That way we would have to deeply consider if war is the answer to the situation.
  • by b4upoo (166390) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:08PM (#25890513)

    From a soldier's point of view it is rather easy to understand why all of the population might appear to be an enemy. Often that is an outright fact. Even if the locals happen to like Americans those locals still must make a living and also appease the fanatical elements in their neighborhood. So the same people that smile and feed you dinner might also buy their groceries smuggling munitions.
              This may turn really ugly in the moonscape like land that borders Pakistan. There is no easy way to dislodge tribal people from that terrain. It could very well be that the only real path to victory is exterminating the entire population. And what else does a soldier seek other than victory?

  • Do they run vista? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raymansean (1115689) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:10PM (#25890551)
    It takes a special set of skills to corrupt a single human being, it takes another set of skills, not that special, to corrupt an entire battalion of robots, that are all identical. Did I mention sharks with lasers?
  • Silly nonsense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:11PM (#25890565) Homepage

    Iraq became a police action needing law enforcement, not military force, from the moment President Bush stood on the carrier deck saying "Mission Accomplished". From that moment forward using military troops in Iraq became the wrong approach. You don't use the Army as a police force. Any information derived from soldiers misused as policemen is irrelevent.

    The only ethics needed or desired on the battlefield is to win the day. Period. Doing anything else is a formula for disaster. As can be shown in Vietnam. We didn't use the maximum force to full effect, we danced around and tried to do everything but defeat the enemy. The result - South Vietnam was overrun and lots of people died.

    Once you leave the scenario of the battlefield, you can talk about ethics. You also stop needing soldiers and start needing diplomats and policemen. Consuing the two doesn't work and provably so.

  • by subreality (157447) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:12PM (#25890599)

    Personally, I think this is a response to the problems of being the established army fighting a guerrilla force. The way guerrillas succeed is by driving the invading army slowly crazy by making them live in constant fear (out of self-preservation), until they start lashing out in fear (killing innocents, and recruiting new guerrillas in mass). The same goes for treating noncombatants with dignity and respect: Doing so makes the occupying force less hated, so the noncombatants won't be as willing to support the guerrillas.

    So in short, to me this sounds like trying to win, not ethics.

  • by vertinox (846076) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:13PM (#25890601)

    The advantage to a killing robot is that it has no emotions. The disadvantage to a killing robot is ironically that it has no emotions.

    More than not, most face to face civilian casualties on the battlefield happen due to fatigue, emotional related issues (my buddy just died!), or miscommunication.

    Not because the soldiers had lack of emotion or humanity.

    The other kind in which a bomb, mortar, or arty shell lands on a house full of civilians because someone typed in the wrong address in GPS are so separated from the battlefield anyway, it won't really make a difference if the guy pushing the button is man or machine.

  • by ThosLives (686517) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:14PM (#25890627) Journal

    The bigger issue isn't so much the tools and weapons, but the whole "modern" concept of war. You cannot accept the concept of war without the concept of causing destruction, even destruction of humans. To send people into a warzone and tell them not to cause destruction is actually more immoral and unethical, in my mind, than sending them in and allowing them to cause destruction.

  • by poetmatt (793785) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:16PM (#25890651) Journal

    That sounds pretty contradictory.

  • by gelfling (6534) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:16PM (#25890655) Homepage Journal

    It's the only way to be sure.

  • by Abreu (173023) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:18PM (#25890671)

    Sorry McGrew, but waterboarding and torture is both unethical and immoral. As far as I know (being an ignorant foreigner), the US Army does not include any torture instructions in its manuals.

    Now, you could make a case that Gitmo's existence might be ethical but immoral, considering that it is technically not a US territory, but legally* under US jurisdiction.

    *The legality of this is disputed by Cuba, of course...

  • Re:Humane wars (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blhack (921171) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:19PM (#25890689)

    It would be completely inhumane (haha) and tilt the outcome of a war towards those who can afford to develop such technology.

    Hmmm...an interesting debate.

    What, then, is your opinion missiles with guidance? Or active terrain avoidance? Is it the fact that these things are on the ground that bothers you?

    Howabout UAV bombers?
    At what point does something go from being a "smart bomb" to a "killer robot".

  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:19PM (#25890693)

    So, a family is picnicking on a hill overlooking your kill zone.

    The toddler gets away and falls down the hill and then wanders into your kill zone.

    Is it ethical to kill the toddler?

    Machines cannot be ethical because they cannot make decisions based upon less / more ethical choices.

  • Re:Humane wars (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nasor (690345) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:20PM (#25890705)

    It would be completely inhumane (haha) and tilt the outcome of a war towards those who can afford to develop such technology. That is, if one country can afford killer robots and another can't, then the former has no deterrent to invading the latter.

    As opposed to when one side can afford to put its soldiers in tanks, and the other can't?

  • Re:Humane wars (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jahudabudy (714731) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:23PM (#25890761)
    But imagine if all wars were fought by proxy. Instead of sending people, we send machines. Let the machines battle it out.

    And when the side whose machines lose doesn't accept that decision? Sooner or later, someone will decide that winning is more important than playing by the rules (I'm guessing sooner). They will then continue the war until unable to, not until told they have lost.

    It's a cool idea, but I doubt it will ever be practical. Even if technology progresses to the point where it is simply suicide to send men against the victorious robot army, humans being humans, people still will.
  • by HW_Hack (1031622) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:23PM (#25890763)

    Dark alley in a city battle field

    Robot "You have 5 seconds to drop your weapon"

    The soldiers Weapon clatters to the ground

    Robot "You have 4 seconds to drop your weapon"

    Robot "The United States will treat you fairly"

    Robot "You have 3 seconds to drop your weapon"

    Soldier "What do you fucking want !!!"

    Robot "I am authorized to terminate you under the Autonomous Artificial Battlefield Soldier Act of 2011."

    Sound of running footsteps and burst of weapons fire.

    Robot encoded data transmission

  • Re:Silly nonsense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nasor (690345) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:24PM (#25890775)

    Iraq became a police action needing law enforcement, not military force, from the moment President Bush stood on the carrier deck saying "Mission Accomplished". From that moment forward using military troops in Iraq became the wrong approach. You don't use the Army as a police force. Any information derived from soldiers misused as policemen is irrelevent.

    That would only be true if there hadn't still been large, organized, and heavily-armed groups operating in Iraq in opposition to the U.S. Yeah, the military doesn't make a good police force, but the police usually don't do very well when their police stations are attacked by "criminals" with rockets, mortars, and machine guns.

  • Re:Silly nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:24PM (#25890781) Homepage
    The only ethics needed or desired on the battlefield is to win the day. Period. Doing anything else is a formula for disaster. As can be shown in Vietnam. We didn't use the maximum force to full effect, we danced around and tried to do everything but defeat the enemy. The result - South Vietnam was overrun and lots of people died.

    No, that's absurd. Who cares if you win the day if you lose the war? If you get bogged down in that kind of short-term thinking you're doomed to lose in the end.

    We didn't win in Vietnam because the Vietnamese were willing to take horrific casualties, not because we weren't willing to attack with maximum force. Hell, we firebombed villages and deforested entire regions, what exactly else should we have done?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:25PM (#25890787)

    Was it ethical for a family to be picnicking near a kill zone?

  • Their one weakness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by philspear (1142299) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:26PM (#25890805)

    They'll be a cinch to defeat. You see, Killbots have a preset kill limit. Knowing their weakness, we can send wave after wave of our own men at them, until they reach their limit and shutdown.

    -Zapp Branigan

  • by blhack (921171) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:27PM (#25890821)

    It takes a special set of skills to corrupt a single human being, it takes another set of skills, not that special, to corrupt an entire battalion of robots

    Do you live in a society without Money?
    Or women?
    Or sports cars?
    Or Fancy houses?
    Or Gold?
    Or "Change" posters?

    As far as I know, my computers have never accepted a bribe, or made a power-grab.

  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:28PM (#25890829)

    "Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster"--William Tecumseh Sherman

  • by EricWright (16803) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:29PM (#25890837) Journal

    Ummm... it's not the computers you bribe, it's their programmers.

  • by blhack (921171) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:34PM (#25890901)

    Ummm... it's not the computers you bribe, it's their programmers.

    AHA! So! How is this any different than humans?

    Bribe a human to kill a person (or have their army kill a shitload of people).
    Bribe a human to have their robot kill a person (or have their army of robots kill a shitload of people).

    I think that the problem is people having misconceptions about robots. They're not sentient. They don't think. They only do what we tell them to. Sure there are horror stories about robots coming to life, but there are also horror stories about dead people coming to life, or cars coming to life.

    We need to drop the term "robot".

  • Ahem... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shellster_dude (1261444) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:36PM (#25890935)
    I take serious issue with the part of the article where they mention that most Marines who toured Iraq believe that all civilians should be treated as insurgents. Of course you treat everyone like potential insurgents in an urban combat environment, otherwise you will end up dead. That says nothing about ethical views or the proper treatment of people in general. SWAT teams are taught to consider everyone as a terrorist when they are attempting hostage rescue. That means, that they never take for granted that the apparent "hostage" is indeed a hostage. It keeps people safe.
  • by Jeoh (1393645) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:37PM (#25890947)

    Look, if I'm going to have an argument with you, then I'm going to have to take up a contradictory position.

    No you don't.

  • by onkelonkel (560274) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:39PM (#25890975)
    Quoted from memory, from a Keith Laumer "Retief" story

    Alien - "I propose saturation thermonuclear bombardment from orbit followed by mop-up squads armed with nerve gas and flamethrowers. No population, no popular unrest"

    Human Ambassador - "I must say Retief, there is a certain admirable, um, directness to his methods"
  • On the contrary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by br00tus (528477) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:39PM (#25890983)

    On the contrary, during and prior to World War II, many enlisted men wouldn't even shoot their guns at other troops. Actually, towards the end of World War I, most European armies turned their guns on their officers en masse (the French Nivelle mutinies, the German naval munities, the Russian mutinies and soldier and worker councils).

    After World War II, army psychologists discovered how many men were not firing their guns at enemy soldiers and worked via various means to increase that percentage, which they did in Korea, and even more so in Vietnam.

    I don't see Russian soldiers, as that old song goes, "shooting the generals on their own side" if they feel a war is wrong. As I said before, the resistance to kill resides in the enlisted men, the low-level brass on up is much less concerned about this. The US has purposefully and consciously targeted non-combat civilians in every major war it has ever fought, but stating such is a danger to the machine of empire so it becomes something that one can't state. When it is so publicly and undeniably done, such as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then it becomes rationalized, but it has happened before and since then.

  • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:41PM (#25891011) Homepage
    If nobody wants us there and the only way to win genocide -- why are we there? I mean, besides for the oil.
  • Retarded (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:43PM (#25891047)

    No self preservation?

    Yeah, who cares if our billion dollar terminator squad is destroyed, or captured and used against us.

    No anger? That's an emotion, so sure. No recklessness? You're gonna lose the war if you aren't willing to charge ahead blindly, pull a crazy Ivan, or, in general, break a few eggs for your delicious victory omelet.

    Scenario fulfillment?
    So our robots will evaluate the situation based on what they observe and know. They won't be acting out the battle plan as described because they don't have the whole picture and have seen some things that don't logically fit. Awesome! No more gambits, pincer attacks, bluffs, etc. Those things were too complicated anyway.

    Why should noncombatants be treated with dignity and respect by default (and hence, as a whole)?

    They typically don't treat our soldiers with dignity or respect, they serve as a political road block for troops and make their jobs harder and more dangerous, they house and support the combatants, and they often become combatants.

    Why should ANY group be treated with dignity and respect by default? Seems to me, you used to have to EARN respect, and dignity was a character trait.

    But go ahead, build your pussybot army.

  • by Talderas (1212466) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:46PM (#25891073)

    The fact that robots do exactly what you tell them to is precisely why they're dangerous. If you have 1 maniacal individual order a platoon of soldiers to slaughter a village, the individual human soldiers may refuse to follow the order. If that same individual has a platoon of robots instead, the villagers are dead as soon as the order is issued.

  • by Marful (861873) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:49PM (#25891119)
    The premise of the article is that these robots are incorruptible. However such a premise is flawed at it's very core.

    Because such robots will be designed, programed and manufactured, by man, who is corruptible.

    The point of what pwnies was saying is that the ability to alter and subvert a piece of computer programming is a skill set that is highly prevalent in today's society.
  • Parent is wrong! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonaskoelker (922170) <jonaskoelker&gnu,org> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:51PM (#25891159) Homepage

    "Less risk to our troops" can translate into "we go into more wars"

    You don't like wars because people are killed. You're talking about potentially eliminating human casualties in any war.

    No he's not. He's talking about this:

    1. The USA having robots and Bumfukistan having people.
    2. Because the USA has robots and won't suffer (nearly any) casualties, they enter into more wars.
    3. Because they enter into more wars, more Bumfukistanis will get killed.
    4. The increase in the Bumfukistani body count is greater than the decrease in the USA body count.

    Robot wars (heh...) may lead to more lives lost on the battlefields. That's what parent is worried about.

    If the lives lost aren't American Lives, does it still matter?

    If this question seriously needs to be asked, this world is fucked.

  • Truth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:53PM (#25891193) Homepage Journal

    War is hell.
    War is ugly.
    War is dirty.
    War is painful for the victor.
    War is devestating for the loser.
    War is an act of hate.
    War is an act of desparation.
    War is that which results from a lack of options.
    War is fought for land, resources, women, gods, and pride.
    War is the last desparate act when all other options fail and there is no time to think of any new options.
    No one desires war, but many choose to profit from it.
    War is inevitable so long as we want for things.
    When you take away the horrors of war you no longer have war, you have a professional sport.

    Now I ask you: If machines are sent to war again men or against other robots is it still a war?

    "Inspired by Ender's Game"

  • by blhack (921171) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:56PM (#25891235)

    If you have 1 maniacal individual order a platoon of soldiers to slaughter a village, the individual human soldiers may refuse to follow the order.

    There is a flip side to that coin. Machines don't think. Machines don't get PTSD and decide to go on a killing rampage. Machines don't "go rogue".

    In addition, soldiers are trained not to think, they're trained to follow orders. If anything, replacing them will save lives. I imagine that leaders will think twice about how bad they want us invading them when we've got an army full of machines that we have no emotion or time invested in.

    It is like our fleet of submarines. Simply the threat that we can deploy them keeps us out of wars.
    On a smaller level, societies where people own guns are usually more peaceful ones. Why? Because people can see them. Just the threat of being shot is enough to deter people from starting shit.

  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:57PM (#25891251) Homepage

    "and they can be made invulnerable to... "scenario fulfillment," which causes people to absorb new information more easily if it agrees with their pre-existing ideas."

    Bullsh!t.

    For a robotic soldier, ignoring information that conflicts with the worldview would most likely be built right into the system.

  • by Migraineman (632203) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @04:57PM (#25891259)
    Sounds like a lecture we received in high-school metal shop. "The machines aren't inherently good or inherently evil, but they will do exactly what you tell them to. If you place your hand into the bandsaw blade, it will dutifully snip your fingers off without remorse."
  • by Deskpoet (215561) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:00PM (#25891311) Homepage Journal

    From a soldier's point of view it is rather easy to understand why all of the population might appear to be an enemy. Often that is an outright fact.

    Yeah, that particularly happens when the soldier is part of an invading occupation force with dubious intention. AND the soldier is conditioned to believe they are (racially, religiously, socially) superior to the locals they are "defending". AND they are products of a militarized culture that glorifies violence as it cynically prattles about honor and respect.

    Perhaps, just maybe, if foreign policy of oppressors such as the Washington Consensus were attacked and done away with by the people responsible for them (you know, the supposedly "free" people who stand on the sidelines as their killers are loosed on the world), the ethics of creating killing machines more efficient than Special Forces or Airborne soldiers wouldn't be debated by arrested adolescents (who've never smelled the burning flesh of their "enemies") in meaningless online forums.

    In such a world, your utter bankruptcy of anything decent would be appropriately pilloried for the imperial apologia it is. I guess, as it stands, you'll just have to settle for my contempt....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:04PM (#25891375)

    You have that backwards.

    Morals are the right-vs.-wrong concept.

    Ethics are a code of conduct.

    Hence the term "business ethics" or even the name People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They're really the ones confusing the issue. Everyone thinks animals should be treated ethically. PETA thinks everyone should treat animals according to an unrealistic moral standard. But PMTA is hard to pronounce...

    If you're getting the two confused, think of it this way: morals are a personal conviction based on your view of right and wrong, while ethics are a standard based on a community view of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Ethics are morals, but morals are sometimes beyond what ethics require. Morals are tied to your conscience and whether you can allow yourself to do, say, or even think something. Ethics are all about how you're viewed by those around you and whether they approve of what you do or say, but can never govern what you think.

  • The parents of the toddler should not have been picnicking on a hill overlooking the kill zone. This is no different than a toddler wandering into freeway traffic.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:06PM (#25891413) Homepage Journal
    I hear a lot of complaints about the 4k US soldiers that died after Iraq war started, but nothing about the 1+M iraqui civilians that died there, a war that had nothing to do with the reason the government gave for it, and the worst part? the president behind all of it got reelected. That count for 50%+ of the americans, maybe not you in particular, but that "self-righteous implication" could be right.
  • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:20PM (#25891633) Journal

    There is a flip side to that coin. Machines don't think. Machines don't get PTSD and decide to go on a killing rampage. Machines don't "go rogue".

    ...but their programmers can. In addition you have to be very careful when programming them - if you make a mistake in the program or forget to cover some situation then the robot may be doing exactly what it is told but may still end up causing an atrocity. In effect all you are doing is replacing one set of known risks with another set of unknown ones.

  • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:22PM (#25891653)

    War should be as brutal and as ugly as possible. That way we would have to deeply consider if war is the answer to the situation.

    That doesn't work when the brutality of war doesn't get shown to most of the people in one faction of the war.

    This happens to be the case in the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The reporting which caused the public backlash against the war in Vietnam simply doesn't exist in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:27PM (#25891745)

    I imagine that leaders will think twice about how bad they want us invading them when we've got an army full of machines that we have no emotion or time invested in.

    Dude, this is the US. If we think they're easy pickings we'll invade any country we want. It doesn't matter what their leaders do. If they don't give us a reason we'll invent one.

    The last thing this country needs is something that makes going to war even easier.

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:30PM (#25891791)

    "A war with no civility will only give rise to massacres." - Treize Khushrenada

  • by PacketShaper (917017) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:36PM (#25891869)
    But they are not programmed by "A" man... they are programmed by teams of men, all overlooking eachother's code. Teams of men who are not under the stress of battle and having to make real-time imperfect decisions. The decisions in the code can be made under ideal, non-stressful circumstances and peer-reviewed before they are ever put into use.
  • Re:Retarded (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chirs (87576) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:36PM (#25891873)

    "Why should noncombatants be treated with dignity and respect by default (and hence, as a whole)?"

    Because they're _non_ combatants. By definition, they're not fighting.

    If you treat the population as a whole as though they're combatants, what incentive do they have to remain noncombatant? If you treat them like human beings, maybe they'll decide that you're better than the combatants and side with you...

    "Why should ANY group be treated with dignity and respect by default? Seems to me, you used to have to EARN respect, and dignity was a character trait."

    Wow. I'm stunned, really. Think that through for a minute--if everyone was disrespectful towards anyone they didn't already respect, how would anyone earn additional respect?

    Game theory shows that the most successful strategy is to assume the best of the other party, and only betray them once they have betrayed you.

  • by melikamp (631205) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:37PM (#25891889) Homepage Journal

    I think that the problem is people having misconceptions about robots.

    Go on!

    They're not sentient. They don't think. They only do what we tell them to.

    By your own argument, if we were to tell them to "be sentient" and to "think for themselves" and to "make their own decisions", that is what they would have to do. Yet they are not sentient, but their program tells them that they are, but they cannot be, but they have to... [Cue smoking CPU]

    In actuality, however, a CPU won't smoke. If a robot is programmed to be autonomous to some degree, so it will be, and no amount of kicking and screaming on your part is going to change that. Yes, a sufficiently individualistic autonomous robot will sometimes go postal, but that is a price of being less predictable (and so more effective) in a combat situation.

  • by jon207 (1176461) <zanko@daemontux.org> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:38PM (#25891913) Homepage

    On a smaller level, societies where people own guns are usually more peaceful ones.

    In what world are you living where societies where people own guns are peaceful ? If people own guns, people will be killed by guns. If people have no guns, they can't kill their family by mistake when thinking being in presence of a criminal or when being drunk. If people have no guns, children can't take them at school and kill other students. I live in a country where there is a few guns, and we have many less problems. No Columbine here. No Corean killing others after playing Sonic... And, when a problem occurs, no need to say that's the GTA fault cause we don't have to protect guns sellers' business.

  • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:43PM (#25891977)

    Here's a few things you should be aware of:

    #1 - War Is Hell - William Tecumseh Sherman

    #2 - The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. - George Smith Patton

    #3 - Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations. They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof. - Geneva Conventions. You should be aware that at NO time has any Islamic force, least of all the terrorist forces, ever followed ANY portion of the Geneva Conventions. You should also pay very close attention to this clause, which does NOT require that one party to a conflict fight with both hands tied behind their back (e.g. within the Geneva Conventions) while the other side doesn't.

    #4 - The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations. - GC IV, Section 28

    #5 - The Party to the conflict in whose hands protected persons may be is responsible for the treatment accorded to them by its agents, irrespective of any individual responsibility which may be incurred. - GC IV, Section 29

    Why are these two sentences placed here, and in this way? To make it perfectly clear that the blame for problems caused by "armies" that refuse to carry their arms openly, that hide behind civilians and use them as shields, is on the head of the party using the human shields.

    You want to know why the armed forces see civilians as complicit? Because the Geneva Conventions (IV,Article 35) specifically gives civilians the right to vacate, and be protected while vacating, any place where hostilities are occurring. The problem is, there are way too many supposed "civilians" who are actually members of terrorist groups or supporting/housing them in violation of the Geneva Convention prohibitions on doing so (not, again, that any Islamic group has ever been moral enough to follow the Geneva Conventions anyways).

    What is absurd is that our armed forces are being told today that they are supposed to win wars while both hands are tied behind their backs (ridiculously fucking stupid "rules of engagement" that presume the other side is following the GC when we know damn well they don't) and blindfolded (all sorts of nasty restrictions on intelligence-gathering). And what's even worse is that whether we fight to win or not, we will be falsely accused of breaking the Geneva Conventions even as we stupidly try to follow them and the other side isn't being held accountable for their daily war crimes.

    In addition, soldiers are trained not to think, they're trained to follow orders.

    If you have clear, concise orders, that's one thing. The list of "rules of engagement" for Iraq is a fucking NOVEL. It's amazing as few of our men and women have died as they have, trying to fight while thinking of fucking chapter and verse before pulling the goddamn trigger to return fire on asshats who wear women's clothing and fire from behind small children.

    Oh, and here's a homework assignment for the left wingnuts who are going to post "waah bush lied people died" or some other fucking nonsense: READ the whole Geneva Conventions, and a good analysis of it, first. Educate yourself before spouting your ignorant nonsense.

  • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:44PM (#25892011)

    If nobody wants us there and the only way to win genocide -- why are we there? I mean, besides for the oil.

    For the same reason why "nobody" wants Americans to have religious freedom.

    Because your definition of "nobody" infers that the noisy, protesting 1% of Iraqis are everybody. The flagburners that call us "The Great Devil" and fire machine guns into the air must make up the sum total of the entire Iraqi population!

    The Islamic sects that would get holocausted into extinction if the other sects took control are scared for when the soldiers leave. The suicide bombers are, for the most part, not Iraqi. They are immigrant extremists that are in Iraq, killing Iraqis that don't follow the same Islamic code as they do, to scare the rest into submitting to their specific beliefs. You think mosque, pilgrimage, police headquarters, and market bombings are targetted at US troops?

    If you want to know the reason why we're still there, I suggest you read "Leviathan" while you wait. If Iraq doesn't have a stable government or structured military when the troops pull out, the land will go to the meanest, toughest faction -- which is currently not one that's allied with us. We have troops there to make sure the Western-friendly government lasts more than a weekend.

  • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:50PM (#25892059)

    Are you working with classic ethics, or the "whatever makes more money for $cientology is obviously more ethical" idea of the "world's most ethical" Cult?

  • by astrodoom (1396409) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:51PM (#25892093)
    So how do you reconcile the ethics of assuming every human is not hostile to the tactical reasoning of one of those innocents suddenly pulling out a gun and toasting you. I'm actually more surprised that it was such a small percentage of soldiers who responded that civilians should be treated like insurgents. Until you're sure of their intent, basic tactical reasoning says to assume hostility (not respond with hostility, but still assume it). Seems like a trick question to me. It's also an interesting dilemma of how you would program a robot to not do that and yet still respond to threats. New strategy! Walk up to the robot very calmly and plant a grenade on it's rear. I guarantee you wouldn't get to do that with a human soldier.
  • by Kelbear (870538) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:53PM (#25892121)

    On the flipside, I wonder if our leaders will think twice before sending the robots.

    It may reduce the deaths on our side, but people will continue to die on the other side. When we're only losing robots we're shielded from the consequences of our actions.

    The war in Iraq may be pointless but the death of a soldier fighting in Iraq is not. When Americans die, America will have to wonder whether or not it's worth more American deaths. Even in death the soldier contributes to ending the war and possibly preventing another soldier from following him overseas and dying there. They don't have to "win" the war in Iraq for their death to mean something

    Our leaders are already quite insulated from the war, but they are still vulnerable to erosion of their political base by supporting it, as we saw in this year's election. Maybe they already feel enough of the impact of the war, maybe they need to feel more, but I'm fairly sure that they don't need any more layers between them and the violence. War shouldn't become comfortable.

    But it's all moot anyway.

    War costs a buttload of money. Fielding modern soldiers is expensive, but I think fielding high-tech robot would be even more expensive. Especially when they have no sense of self-preservation. Over time, costs of production might go down, but upgrades to the specs will add to the the cost as well.

    Until the robot matures significantly I don't think they'll play a major role in war. Right now we need smart soldiers who can handle a wide variety of assignments and handle themselves intelligently in uncertain circumstances. The robot won't compete with that for a long while.

    Human deaths will never cease to be a part of war, each side will hit each other where it hurts the most. If combot robots somehow replaced the soldiers so that the enemy couldn't find any military personnel to kill, the enemy would just kill civilians instead. Terrorists are already doing this.

  • by D Ninja (825055) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @05:54PM (#25892133)

    Machines don't "go rogue".

    Uhh...hellloooooo...Termintator! Duh.

    [/valley_girl]

  • by blhack (921171) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:03PM (#25892271)

    I'll admit that most of the results from google seem to come from websites that are far from non-biased, but here is an example of the least crazy one:
    Gun ownership vs Crime [ncpa.org]
    If you google for: Gun Control vs Violent Crime, you'll find quite a few articles that back up what I said.

    The idea that a gun ban would decrease crime is illogical. Violent criminals don't generally buy their guns at hunting stores, they buy them from illegal gun dealers.

  • by Your.Master (1088569) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:07PM (#25892343)

    I'm from a society with more private gun ownership than the USA, and yet we have far lower rates of gun violence.

    Anecdotes rule!

  • by Philip K Dickhead (906971) <folderol@fancypants.org> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:10PM (#25892363) Journal

    Ethical War Crimes

    It's the new "Black".

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:17PM (#25892467) Homepage

    Simply the threat that we can deploy them keeps us out of wars.

    Think about what you're saying in light of someone like Dick Cheney getting control of an army like that. At that point we wouldn't need Skynet because we'd be Skynet. Turning such an army loose on our own citizens becomes a comfortably distant and self-justifying mental exercise, much like torturing terror suspects. After all, if they weren't acting up, they wouldn't get killed by the robots, now would they?

    I think we want killing to remain a painful, brutal, messy and difficult job. We want a human making that decision, even if it's pushing the launch button on a drone half-way around the world. We want them to see the blood and dismemberment, the grieving widows and crying children, the collateral damage. We want anyone engaged in killing, even in war time, to be in touch with the destruction they leave in their wake. Lest some crabby old man lacking a conscience some day decides you're the problem. Or some drunken Connecticut frat boy pretending to be a religious fighter pilot from Texas decides he wants to take out someone who made his daddy look bad.

    And to borrow your own gun analogy, anyone who knows you got a gun and wants to start shit will just make sure they have a bigger gun and more of them. I think part of the problem is the rampant ethnocentrism that always sees what we want to do as being the right thing. What happens when the rest of the world, with their own robot armies, decide we're the problem?

  • by BornAgainSlakr (1007419) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:27PM (#25892597)

    Wow, this is +5:Insightful, really?

    Soldiers are supposed to want to fight. If you want the Peace Corps, send in the Peace Corps. If you want the Marine Corps, send in the Marine Corps.

    What? Really, what does that mean? The Peace Corps does not kill, let alone kill without emotion, so how are ``ethical killing machines'' that kill without emotion equivalent to the Peace Corps? And, by the way, the Marine Corps is supposed to fight with ethics. So, what's your point here?

    The whole things sounds like a bunch of Leftist grad students angling for funding. The concept, given the current state of technology, is a pathetic attempt at political correctness.

    Read Who Owns Death? [amazon.com]. The quest for ``ethical'' means of killing is merely a way to legitimize institutional killing, be it war or the death penalty. It has nothing to do with Left, Right, or Political Correctness.

    I'm sure there are some people that would not be horrified by the sight of an inmate catching on fire because the execution staff failed to properly prep him for electrocution. However, a lot of people, both supporters and opponents of the death penalty, were, and that's why Florida does not use the electric chair anymore. It's not that leathal injection is any more humane, really. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that it is not. But, it seems humane enough and it allows supporters of the death penalty to think they have the moral high ground.

    Same goes for war. It's exactly the same mentality that produces stuff like ``smart'' bombs, UAVs, and now ``ethical killing machines''.

  • by kent_eh (543303) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:28PM (#25892603)

    Violent criminals don't generally buy their guns at hunting stores, they buy them from illegal gun dealers.

    Or steal them from people who own them legally (but somehow never learned to store them properly).
    Or smuggle them into the country from a neighboring country that has lax control over weapons.
    Or buy/steal them from other criminals who have done one of the above.
    Still, the point stands. Less guns in general in a society means less people getting shot.

  • by moxley (895517) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:42PM (#25892785)

    The Gun is Civilization, by Maj. L. Caudill, USMC (Ret)

    Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or make me do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that's it.

    In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.

    When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force.

    The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gang banger, and a single guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.

    There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations. These are the people who think that we'd be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a [armed] mugger to do his job. That, of course, is only true if the mugger's potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat--it has no validity when most of a mugger's potential marks are armed.

    People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that's the exact opposite of a civilized society. A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.

    Then there's the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways. Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser.

    People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones don't constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip at worst. The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker. If both are armed, the field is level.

    The gun is the only weapon that's as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weight lifter. It simply wouldn't work as well as a force equalizer if it wasn't both lethal and easily employable.

    When I carry a gun, I don't do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I'm looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don't carry it because I'm afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn't limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation...and that's why carrying a gun is a civilized act.

    So the greatest civilization is one where all citizens are equally armed and can only be persuaded, never forced.

  • by Lurker2288 (995635) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:46PM (#25892829)
    "Why are these two sentences placed here, and in this way? To make it perfectly clear that the blame for problems caused by "armies" that refuse to carry their arms openly, that hide behind civilians and use them as shields, is on the head of the party using the human shields."

    I agree with most of what you're saying, but the problem is that most people don't really care if technically we're in the right when we drop a bomb that kills noncombatants. We still look like the bad guys.

    As for Bush...well, you've said yourself that the rules of engagement our troops work under are absurd. As the commander in chief, doesn't Bush take some responsibility for that? I know plenty of people who would argue that going to war was the right decision, but that Bush (and his subordinates) botched the whole thing horribly--wouldn't you consider overly restrictive ROEs to be a part of that?
  • Re:Ahem... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:49PM (#25892869)
    no, it keeps them safe.
  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:51PM (#25892913)

    Who cares what the Geneva convention says.

    Wrecklessly killing civilians and dragnet style imprisonment reinforces the view in the population that you're the enemy.

    Sure the Geneva convention lets you bomb a military target using human shields but if you kill them you've just made more enemies than you've dispatched.

    Sure the Geneva convention might say that civilians are supposed to leave the area of conflict. But when your entire country is the area of conflict and the occupying force is trying to encourage you to "go about your daily lives" you can't blaim them for staying. "We're bring peace and prosperity. Return to normal... oh and please... everybody leave the nation for the next 20 weeks while we kill everything that moves."

    What's legal and what's pragmatic are two very differnet things. Which is why your ideological black and white contrast of what is "legal" falls far beyond the realms of what is the right course of action. Boofucking hoo Sadaam was a bad guy. Lots of people are bad. It's your kind of "We're going to spread freedom and do what is right--damn the consequences and screw whoever gets trampled under foot in the process" attitude is just as repulsive and disasterously fool hearty as an extreme pacifist.

  • by brkello (642429) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:53PM (#25892923)
    So wanting to minimize death is "Leftist" these days? What does the Right stand for? Killing kittens in their sleep?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:57PM (#25892975)

    Your comment about the language degrading is dead wrong. The OED (the truly definitive last word) has as the first definition of "ethics" : "The science of morals; the department of study concerned with the principles of human duty." and cites a text example from 1602.

  • by Abreu (173023) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @07:09PM (#25893097)

    But those manuals were not intended for the US military, only for the puppet right-wing goverments of latin america, right?

  • by Spatial (1235392) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @07:40PM (#25893455)

    #1 - War Is Hell - William Tecumseh Sherman

    I'll add... "It's well that war is so terrible, lest we should become too fond it."

  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @08:12PM (#25893837) Journal
    That's just stupid. My ability to reason is not the same as your ability to reason. Just as my gun and my ability to use my gun may not be the same as your gun and your ability to use your gun. If my ability to reason is greater than yours, I'll try that as i have the greatest advantage in that scenario. If I'm better than you at using my gun, then I'll use that. A 75 year old woman with a small pistol does not negate an aka 47 in the hands of a trained killer. Even if they were equally armed, it still wouldn't be a fair fight. Even if it is an even match skill and weapon wise, the participants might try to use strategies that create an advantage, such as, Oh I don't know, a drive by shooting. There are places where people are equally armed and equipped in the areas of urban gangs, those happen to also be the places of the greatest gun violence. Arming everyone is just stupid.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @08:57PM (#25894247) Homepage Journal

    In addition, soldiers are trained not to think, they're trained to follow orders.

    In the US Army, at least, this is simply not true.

    American soldiers are very much trained to think -- mostly about tactical considerations, true ("I've been ordered to do X; what is the best way to accomplish that?") but the Law Of Armed Conflict (LOAC) is part of every soldier's training. To the degree that the LOAC is violated on the battlefield, this represents a failure of the training, not of the doctrine.

    There are many nations which attempt to train their soldiers to be mindless killing machines. When those soldiers come up against soldiers who have been trained to think, the thinking ones tend to win.

  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <(aussie_bob) (at) (hotmail.com)> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @09:31PM (#25894513) Journal
    And when the government, who HAS the guns, says 'jump', you do.

    Um no.

    You gun nuts lost your right to use that rationalisation when you let Bushco rape your country and you didn't use those guns to defend yourselves.

  • by ravenshrike (808508) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @09:36PM (#25894549)
    If the trained killer is using an AK-47 either he has shitty taste, poor logistics, or he's not so trained of a killer.
  • by Genda (560240) <mariet@ g o t . n et> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:17PM (#25894865) Journal

    It's quite predictable that human beings get emotional, neurotic, indescriminate, and particularly viscious when large groups begin the business of killing one another. The hostilities often last hundreds or thousands of years. The brutality get's nothing less than crazy, and what's predictable is that wholesale badness frequently ensues.

    Building a machine to kill more ethically is completely oxymoronic. Build a machine instead that makes it virtually impossible for others to kill "Us". Leaves them (the folks on the other side of the issue) whole, intact, and uninjured. Able to learn the follie of their ways, and that attempts on inflicting death and suffering on others is a bankrupt endeavor. Show them a better way. Demonstrate compassion, dignity, and being humane. Give them "Civilized Alternatives" to address their issues.

    Until you begin to deeply respect human life, you have no ethical ground from which to meaningfully advance human life. That doesn't mean become a speed-bump on the highway to escalating violence. It does mean that we can look for ways to manage, and mitigate the damage that fearful, angry, or violent people can perpetrate. We don't stop killing people because it's good for them. We stop killing people because it's bad for us.

  • by Alcoholist (160427) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @10:47PM (#25895107) Homepage

    A reason to ban guns completely in a society is because it makes it harder to kill a lot of people at once. Ever wondered why you don't hear about a punching spree or a knifing spree?

    If I go mad and walk into a crowded place with the desire to kill people and I have a knife I might be able to get one or two victims before the rest all run away, beyond my reach.

    But with a gun, my reach is greatly extended. I can shoot them as they run or try to dodge around me. I can shoot them through doors and walls if my weapon is good enough. And I can keep shooting targets until I run out of ammo.

    The reason guns are dangerous is because they are an order of magnitude better at hurting people quickly than blades or fists. An armed society is not a polite society. It is a society where people are often shot.

  • by zenasprime (207132) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @11:32PM (#25895397) Homepage

    ...otherwise it becomes easy to conduct.

    Autonomous robot killing machines only make it easier to kill people without the guilt of murder, not fight wars.

  • by Number10 (899888) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:28AM (#25895783)
    It also ignores reflexes and experience. A twitchy teenager has a much better chance of beating grandma to the draw. An experienced gunman beats a novice in a stressful situation.

    A fully armed society doesn't level the force playing field, it just changes the skill sets involved.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrSteveSD (801820) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:31AM (#25895809)

    "If the lives lost aren't American Lives, does it still matter?"

    In military planning, civilian lives seem to matter a lot less than military lives. You can see that in the type of tactics being used. Air Strikes are far more dangerous for civilians than sending in troops (who may actually notice its a wedding), but they are obviously much safer for the military. Foreign civilian lives don't really seem count for much, particularly when it comes to far flung non-western countries like Iraq or Afghanistan. Obviously you couldn't get away with calling in an airstrike on a suspected terrorist hideout in the States or the UK. Although an airstrike would reduce the risk to police and the military, the public and the media would never put up with the inevitable civilian casualties. This huge gulf in the value we place on civilians lives in different countries is something that's rarely discussed in the media.

  • by gary_7vn (1193821) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @02:14AM (#25896397) Homepage
    So you must be in favour of Iran getting nuclear weapons then?
  • by ppanon (16583) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @03:33AM (#25896791) Homepage Journal

    The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gang banger, and a single guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.

    The criminal's probably somewhat messed up mentally with a certain amount of misanthropic or anti-societal anger. So in practice, the criminal will find it easier to pull the trigger than the honest civilian. In addition, even a halfways intelligent criminal will make sure he has the drop on you. Then you're back where you started with an unarmed person against an armed crook because as soon as you look like you're reaching for a piece you'll be sprouting blood. And if you think that a 75 year old has the reaction time, eyesight, and strength to fire a gun as quickly and accurately as a 19-year old gang banger, you're an idiot. The 75 year-old's only chance is that the gang-banger got his shooting lessons from watching rapper music videos.

    Generally, with an armed populace, he who shoots first wins. So you get a populace that's a combination of trigger happy gun owners causing a lot of friendly fire, and people who are rightfully apprehensive at being surrounded by trigger-happy fools.

  • by bagsc (254194) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @04:16AM (#25897057) Journal

    And we know that we still haven't got it all figured out yet. But you think you can write an algorithm to figure it out?

    I was blocking a highway in Baghdad, waiting for the bomb squad to dispose of this bomb on the highway, and we were preventing anyone from getting close to it. It takes the bomb squad forever, and it gets dark. A vehicle drives straight at us, at maybe 90 miles per hour on the highway. That is exactly what suicide car bombs do, which is the biggest danger to American personnel. You have to shoot the driver, or they will ram you and 95% chance you and everyone around you will die.

    Having about two seconds to either stop the vehicle, shoot the driver, or die, I had my buddy turn on the lights. The driver slammed on the breaks, skid to a stop maybe 200 meters from us, and threw it in reverse and got the hell out of there.

    I knew he just saw a wide open highway, and wanted to see how fast he could go. At that speed, he couldn't have seen us in the twilight. The algorithm would have said to shoot him. He's alive because I'm a human.

  • Some sales pitch (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tinkerton (199273) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @05:45AM (#25897439)

    What the hell have opinions of soldiers to do with this? When policy is translated into the indoctrination that it's better to kill 50 random 'other' people than to run the risk that one of your own people might be harmed then there is no respect. And the article serves the myth that problems are caused by soldiers not adhering to army policies.

    Intelligent robots could shift the balance indeed, because you can sacrifice them more easily and it's even good business to do so. But on the other hand killing by remote is easier than in real life(well, for most) and it also becomes easier to keep people at home completely oblivious of what's happening in the war.

    So there will be interest. Good business, more control over information, and less killed in your own camp. That sums up the morality.

  • by Serious Callers Only (1022605) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @07:04AM (#25897813)

    And when the government, who HAS the guns, says 'jump', you do. Better hope that the government always has the citizens best interests at heart, and that there's a policeman nearby who actually wants to help you if you're being attacked.

    The day I see gun-owners stand up for civil rights, stand up to authority successfully, or stand up for other people, is the day I'll agree with this sentiment. Civil rights have been protected and extended in the US without guns (see Martin Luther King, resistance to the draft, ACLU etc.), and have been allowed to erode dramatically over the last decade in spite of widespread gun ownership. Guns are not the only way to defend yourself, or even the best way to defend yourself, against an authoritarian government.

    When the government says jump and you own a gun, what are you going to do - shoot your way out of the situation when they bring in armed police or even army? I don't think so. Guns are not a solution to bad government, civil unrest is (which may or may not involve guns, they're incidental).

  • by Serious Callers Only (1022605) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @07:22AM (#25897919)

    We have troops there to make sure the Western-friendly government lasts more than a weekend.

    This didn't work the last n times it was tried (Iran, Pakistan, Colombia, Vietnam, Somalia etc etc, and that's just naming some US interventions off the top of my head, not all the other examples from history of failed puppet governments, the UK has a whole list too). What makes you think this time will work?

  • by jokkebk (175614) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @09:34AM (#25898739) Homepage

    As the somewhat trollish parent is modded insightful, allow me to deconstruct the article presented in it a bit.

    Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or make me do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that's it.

    Great, so we start with a little black-and-white to make the arguments that follow as clear-cut as the first paragraph, and possibly put the argumentors of a more toned thinking at slight disadvantage.

    In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.

    Now we introduce generally accepted nice concepts "moral", "civilized" and non-violence, and link those to the obvious method of achieving them, the "personal firearm". This lays a nice "straw man" trap for people directly opposing, as they are seemingly also opposing the aforementioned concepts.

    Also note that "some" may find this paradoxical, hinting that "most" see this inherent logic. Great, now some arguments!

    When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force.

    If you carry a gun, I should incapacitate you as soon as possible to prevent you from using that gun, right? So instead of "give me your money", I first hit you from behind and then state my request.

    You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force.

    How many arguments will become more "civil", as stated before, once the other party shows that he/she is carrying a gun? Isn't it actually reversing the balance of force, not negating it?

    It may be true that if everyone were carrying guns, some crimes might be prevented as the physically strong would have less advantage over the weak. However, armed confrontations don't usually end up in balanced argumentation, so I sincerely doubt that there might be downsides in such state of matters, and they could even outweigh the advantages.

    The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gang banger, and a single guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats.

    Use of gun requires certain physical attributes such as aiming, reflexes and visual acuity, which will still remain unequal. Also, the ones who initially were armed with baseball bats are now armed with guns, and are more likely to use them, which still puts numbers and intent on advantage, not the "self-protection". If the unwillingness of gun use would be eliminated in whole population, I'd say we'd soon have more problems created than rape attempts solved.

    The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.

    On the other hand we argument that everyone should carry a piece, and then we prove its usefulness by stating it's superior to several guys with baseball bats. For a level field, the argument should assume that the guys, too, have guns. The only weapon levelling the field here would be few kilograms of C4.

    I see that guns transform the equation of "you're the only one likely to die" to "the other person is as likely to die, too". But this essentially only raises the stakes, much like nuclear weapons do to traditional warfare.

    People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that's the exact opposite of a civilized society. A mugger, even an armed one, can only make

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:42AM (#25899959)

    How about we develop autonomous politician robots that behave more ethically than humans, thereby cutting out a major impetus for wars in the first place?

  • by Kaptain Kruton (854928) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:45AM (#25899993)

    ...and 17 percent said all civilians should be treated as insurgents.

    I want to know what was the context in which this was asked. Everyone that has handled a firearm has heard that he/she should treat every gun as if it is loaded, even if it isn't. It is an idea to add safety. It doesn't mean a gun without ammunition will fire. However, if a gun is believed to be clear of all ammunition and it is not, one does not have to worry about causing damage or injury. Similarly soldiers are in an area in which the enemy dresses the same as civilians that are not taking part in the battle. This means, to avoid surprise attack, one must consider that the innocent looking civilian across the street is not so innocent and is preparing to ambush our soldiers. Am I saying all civilians should be fought and shot, as if they were insurgents in a battle? No. I am saying that soldiers treating civilians with the same concept of suspicion and reserve while they are on patrol is not unreasonable to protect their lives. Depending on the context of the question and the situations to which the question is referring, answers can be different when being asked how civilians should be handled.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein

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