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Company Denies Its Robots Feed On the Dead 154

Posted by samzenpus
from the meat-is-murder dept.
Back in January we covered the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot, or EATR. The EATR gets its energy by "engaging in biologically-inspired, organism-like energy-harvesting behavior which is the equivalent of eating. It can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment ..." So many news outlets picked up the story and ran it with titles alluding to the robot "eating flesh" or even "eating corpses" that a company spokesperson put out a press release saying, "This robot is strictly vegetarian." The statement says in part, "RTI's patent pending robotic system will be able to find, ingest and extract energy from biomass in the environment. Despite the far-reaching reports that this includes 'human bodies,' the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips — small, plant-based items for which RTI's robotic technology is designed to forage. Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI."

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Company Denies Its Robots Feed On the Dead

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  • Wording (Score:5, Funny)

    by Norsefire (1494323) * on Monday July 20, 2009 @11:58AM (#28757031) Journal

    Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI

    Doesn't say anything about dead "enemy combatants" though, does it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "After we got a lot of publicity, we are now telling the truth."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      It also doesn't say who exactly is supposed to ENFORCE the conventions if someone breaks them.
      • Re:Wording (Score:5, Funny)

        by cthulu_mt (1124113) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:17PM (#28757293)
        The machines will enforce the conventions.

        Vote for ED-209!
        • I'm voting for Bender (voice now played by Patrick Stewart).
        • The machines will enforce the conventions.

          Vote for ED-209!

          "ED-209. Not the brightest. But hard working, and Very Sincere!"

          --Frank Miller

          Sounds like he's a shoo-in for the red states!

        • Re:Wording (Score:4, Funny)

          by Mr2cents (323101) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:16PM (#28758263)

          I can certainly see the appeal here.. Surely our flesh-eating robot overlords would have a vested interest in making sure that we are all healthy and nutritious. Disease and famine would become a thing of the past! Not to mention the forced breeding programs!

          • by blitziod (591194)

            duh guys the guy was alive when I ate him..honest..!

          • Dear future generation,

            I admit, it was me. It was all a joke, you know... In hindsight, it might not have been wise to confront the slashdot crowd with the vision of a forced breeding program, but honestly, I didn't realize what I had done until they started to mod me "Insightful".

            So here you have it, you now know the truth. I'm sorry you have to live your life as cattle.

            Sincerely,
            Mr2Cents.

          • by RockDoctor (15477)

            I am now presented with the difficult problem of inventing a punctuation symbol that is interpreted to mean "spoken in the voice of a flesh-eating robotic overlord, sounding not at all apologetic". And I have to find one that SlashCode doesn't mangle. Let's use "%#", just to be utterly arbitrary.

            Not to mention the forced breeding programs!

            %#BEND OVER, FOODSTUFF. I NEED TO REFILL MY TURKEY BASTER. Oh, you need another hole for semen extraction. And you yourself aren't good enough. Guards, take this runt off

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by mabhatter654 (561290)

        Those laws only apply to the Human Species.. not to our new robot overlord species. The creators are assuming they'll always be in control of what the robots choose to eat... they made a movie about that I think? heck we can't even control police dogs and they're "man's best friend". Forget robots being as smart as people.. when they get as smart as dogs we'll start having problems.

        correction:
        It also doesn't say who exactly is LEFT to ENFORCE the conventions if SOMETHING EATS them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) *

      That's kind of a wussy ass war crime. What does it matter what happens to the dead, they're dead. People should be more concerned about the living.

      • Re:Wording (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CarpetShark (865376) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:33PM (#28757521)

        That's kind of a wussy ass war crime. What does it matter what happens to the dead, they're dead. People should be more concerned about the living.

        Uhh... that's the whole point. Few are very concerned about whether a robot cuts up a body on a battlefield, or whether a soldier does it on his way past to check his gun hasn't jammed, or because he didn't like the expression on the dead guy's face.

        The point is that, if people start creating robots like this, it will have a living, evolving impact on our society, and everyone in it. It's more a concern about humans becoming cannibals-by-proxy, than about robots being uncivilised.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          What's the difference between having a robot eat the guy, and leaving the guy to be eaten by the crows, coyotes, vultures, or whatever other detrivores [wikipedia.org] are common place wherever you are.
          • Re:Wording (Score:4, Insightful)

            by CarpetShark (865376) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:51PM (#28757837)

            What's the difference between having a robot eat the guy, and leaving the guy to be eaten by the crows, coyotes, vultures, or whatever other detrivores are common place wherever you are.

            Go read some philosophy and/or spirituality if you really want an answer to that (or just debate on it). It's WAY out of scope for this discussion, and frankly, it's something I expect civilised people to have already studied somewhat.

            • Re:Wording (Score:4, Insightful)

              by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:56PM (#28759003)
              So this "spirituality" thing (whatever is it supposed to be) allows only for stationary cremation ovens but not for cremation ovens with wheels?
      • No it's not. Maybe, we should collect our enemy's dead, and hire dr. death to plasticize them for display in a "fallen enemies" museum? (http://images.google.com/images?q=dr.%20death%20body%20art&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi) Besides, who the hell wants to sleep next to the guy that cuts the ears off of the people he kills?

      • Re:Wording (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ByOhTek (1181381) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:21PM (#28758367) Journal

        because, desecration of the dead isn't about the dead - it's about psychology and the survivors.

        It's against the Geneva Conventions because of it's impact on the living.

    • by jdgeorge (18767)

      Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI

      Doesn't say anything about dead "enemy combatants" though, does it?

      Not to mention civilians. But don't worry, you can protect your family. [hulu.com]

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      It just means the robots will have to eat them while they're still alive!
    • by El Torico (732160)

      Doesn't say anything about dead "enemy combatants" though, does it?

      Apparently they can get away with it. They did in Somalia in 1993 and repeatedly in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001 and 2003 onwards.

    • I know you're being tongue in cheek here, but seriously, the Geneva Convention gives rules of civilized warfare. If you abide by the rules, you recieve the protections of those rules.

      "Enemy combatants" are what happens when one side in a conflict (Guerilla fighters usually) - decide they're going to ignore the rules of war. By deciding this, they forfeit any protections under the Geneva Convention.

    • by fluffy99 (870997)

      Yes it does:
      "Art 18. After each engagement, Parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to search for and collect the shipwrecked, wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled."

  • this robot wouldn't be the first one to succumb to man-eating under extreme circumstances. the only way to be sure is to starve it, and lock it in a room with McCain.
    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      this robot wouldn't be the first one to succumb to man-eating under extreme circumstances. the only way to be sure is to starve it, and lock it in a room with McCain.

      Is McCain starved too? This could easily turn into the first test case for Robot Rights.

  • This is too bad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ls671 (1122017) * on Monday July 20, 2009 @11:59AM (#28757061) Homepage

    > Company Denies Its Robots Feed On the Dead

    Too bad, there could be use for such a robot in an epidemic scenario or on a battlefield where the many corpses laying around could cause a health hazard to the survivors ;-))))

    • by Krneki (1192201) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:07PM (#28757163)
      Maybe he can be allowed to eat the dead only for recreational purpose. :)
        1. Flesh is much higher in energy content than most plant material.
        2. It's much easier to detect moving, living creatures than anything staying still.

        Conclusion: Robots will not feed on the dead. They will much prefer the Living!

        • by mcvos (645701)

          1. Flesh is much higher in energy content than most plant material.

          It's higher in protein content. Not the same thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcvos (645701)

      I'm impressed they admit the robot is vegetarian. Isn't that unamerican or something? I'd expect public outrage if it didn't eat hamburgers and deep fried chicken.

    • by TheCarp (96830) *

      I like the idea. Also... maybe the robot could stop in front of the body, play a dirge to give it a proper funeral, and then start dissecrting it into bits small enough to fit into its energ... portable cremation unit!

      No disrepect of the dead at all, each and every one gets an honorable robotic funeral, and a proper cremation.

      course, I doubt it would actually be a great power source, the freshly dead still have a lot of water in them and, I would think, would need to be dessicated well. Plant matter has the

  • ...the flesh eating module is a premium upgrade. Only Cyberdyne Systems is experimenting with that at the present.

  • As such the robot will seek out enemy combatants who are not *quite* dead yet and feed on them...
  • by Robert1 (513674)

    I think there's a little typo. When they wrote Cyclone they actually meant Cylon.

  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:01PM (#28757077) Homepage
    ...is that I can still get the patent for corpse-eating robot?
  • Some head-line writer killed this company's product. It sucks, but it happens. Post this one to failblog.org/.
  • Never thought I'd see a post where that lame meme was apropo...

  • They're are the locusts, eating our crops.
  • Clarification (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Peregr1n (904456) <ian.a.ferguson@gmail.com> on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:09PM (#28757183) Homepage
    What he's essentially saying is that it DOESN'T eat human bodies. However, that doesn't mean it COULDN'T.
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      In much the same sense that a cow could, in principle, eat you. It's just not terribly likely to happen outside of some contrived wood-chipper accident.

    • So, just like dogs, it might need to be put down once it gets a taste for human flesh. Everything's fine while it stays strictly vegetarian, though...
    • What is exactly your point?
      Are you against a technology because it COULD (your emphasis) be used for evil?
      What exactly do you propose, then? Should research on mobile biomass-based energy converters be banned, existing knowledge be censored, be denied federal funds, or what?

      Whatever your proposal is, how would it apply to other technologies that can be used for enormous evil? Nuclear energy? High energy physics? Rocket propulsion? Genetic engineering? Nanotechnology?
      All of the previous technologies could be

  • -- Insert Microsoft Employees Joke Here --

  • by mcfatboy93 (1363705) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:23PM (#28757373) Homepage

    I spent all my time working on my emergency Zombie plan but now what i need is an Emergency robot plan.

  • Wait til they come out with the second variety of these and they start replicating themselves.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Fat generates more heat, which means more energy. The time to lose weight is now!

  • by vigmeister (1112659) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:27PM (#28757429)

    Desecrating the dead may be a crime, but aren't humans the only ones who can be help responsible for war crimes? If I carpet bomb an enemy military installation, can I be held responsible for a war crime if that installation had any dead bodies that get vaporized? Similarly, if I set loose this robot in a war one and program it to eat the dead (maybe only dead enemies), would I be held responsible for the actions of the robot? As someone above asked, who enforces this anyway? Can't they just make 'killing people' and 'destroying stuff' war crimes?

    Cheers!

    • by azav (469988)

      Ooooor should that be "digesting the dead"?

    • by Pinckney (1098477)

      Would I be held responsible for the actions of the robot?

      Yes. Individuals have been held accountable for war crimes committed under their orders, e.g. Goring, Kaltenbrunner, Keitel. The last is particularly informative since he was a field marshal executed primarily for having ordered the execution of captured soldiers, rather than for participation in the Holocaust. You might be able to get away with writing the program for such a robot, but using one in war, or ordering one to be used in war, would be a crime.

      As someone above asked, who enforces this anyway? Can't they just make 'killing people' and 'destroying stuff' war crimes?

      They are enforced by nation which killed people mos

    • by selven (1556643)
      From what I understand it's a treaty so the countries are supposed to ally against whoever violates it against one of the signing countries.
  • Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by azav (469988) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:30PM (#28757475) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure we can change that.

  • This thing SHOULD eat corpses. You know how much land is wasted in cemeteries and such? And how much cash in embalming and other funereal preparations? This could have saved thousands of acres and millions of dollars. Oh well, there's still a chance Japan will come through for it.

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      Actually, it is a old practice to allow people to be buried, and then after a suitable time, the bones are dug up and put in a bone house or something like that. It is a relatively recent thing for people to be preserved and stuck in airtight caskets. Chances are that the practices will change again if land ever became an issue. Not even most religions require any thing like permanent burial in plots forever and ever, so it's pretty much a practice for the benefit of the living, as opposed to the dead.

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        Part of it is the Christian belief regarding the Rapture. All those buried are supposed to rise up and the sea give up her dead. I guess the people whose bodies have rotted away (or worse - whose bodies were burned or otherwise destroyed after, or as a cause of death) are just SOL, but the belief still stands in the issue.

        When I HAVE asked for an answer on the destroyed body issue most have responded that in their minds if you body was unusable then you'd get a new one but that we still should try our bes

        • Part of it is the Christian belief regarding the Rapture. All those buried are supposed to rise up and the sea give up her dead. I guess the people whose bodies have rotted away (or worse - whose bodies were burned or otherwise destroyed after, or as a cause of death) are just SOL, but the belief still stands in the issue.

          I don't think you know what you're talking about. Christianity doesn't have any specific prohibition on cremation (though some denominations might), but most Catholic & protestant denominations allow it. Cremation is forbidden under Islam. Please take a little time to learn these things before you just rattle something off, hoping to get religion bashing mod points.

          • by MBGMorden (803437)

            I don't think you know what you're talking about. Christianity doesn't have any specific prohibition on cremation (though some denominations might), but most Catholic & protestant denominations allow it. Cremation is forbidden under Islam. Please take a little time to learn these things before you just rattle something off, hoping to get religion bashing mod points.

            Buddy I spent the first 18 years of my life attending a very strict Southern Baptist congregation. I know very well that they were EXTREMELY against cremation (amongst other things that some more mainstream Christians allowed - it was preached in my church that it was a sin to read from any Biblical translation other than the KJV). Nice trying though.

            • Buddy I spent the first 18 years of my life attending a very strict Southern Baptist congregation

              You'll notice in my post I said some denominations might. Southern Baptist != all of Christianity, there isn't any specific prohibition in the Old or New Testament concerning cremation.

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:51PM (#28757827)
    ... tired and all shagged out from a long walk would be fair game.
    [My apologies to Monty Python.]
  • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:09PM (#28758123) Homepage

    You damn robots! Stay off my lawn!

  • by KiwiCanuck (1075767) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:22PM (#28758377)
    the robot only eats vegetarians. Pfew! That was a close one.
  • Crap! You mean I'm going to have to clean the dead rats out of my Roomba by myself for the foreseeable future?

    When can our household robots get omnivorous digesters without someone fretting over it being a war crime?

  • ...PETA got to them.

  • by wiredog (43288) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:31PM (#28758535) Journal

    If it can't eat them after it kills them then why bother? It'll just leave a messy battlefield behind it, won't it?

  • Technically, couldn't you shove a corpse in with the fuel of a steam engine and burn it? Does that make old-timey trains monstrous death-machines?

    Hell, for that matter, what are "fossil fuels" but the corpses of plants and animals, anyway?

    This thing would be scary if it actively hunted corpses not because of its ability to digest them, but rather its intent and design to do so. That you might could shove a body part into a robot out collecting twigs and grass clippings isn't really the designers' fault.

  • It IS the apocalypse.

  • ...this is going to work really well in the true desert regions. No fuel--no food. Now, quick! blow something up so the robot can refuel!
  • I always knew that I lived in an amazing time. I always knew that incredible things would be developed while I was alive. However, I expected these to be things like a reliable cure for cancer, widely available flying cars, and the reduction of disease and hunger in exotic locales where we could benefit from cheap, well-fed labor.

    Never did I imagine that we would instead focus on robots that do not, but theoretically could, eat people as fuel.
  • Am I the only one one imagining a zombie robots movie? Zombie transformers maybe...
  • Although I suppose that could still leave unpleasant battlefield moments open.

    It would surprise me if modifications don't include something like a pitcher plant to trap insects. Lot of calories in meat.

  • "Company denies its robots feed on the dead". Fun times. Ah, well -- they say there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Given its constituency, the only thing I expect to be "open" about [the Open Software Foundation] is its mouth. -- John Gilmore

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