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Robotics The Military

Military Robots from 2007 to 2032 118

Roland Piquepaille writes "A new report from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) looks at the future of the military's unmanned systems over the next 25 years. This 188-page report covers air-, land- and sea-based unmanned technology from 2007 to 2032. The long document notes that drone aircraft and ground-based robots have already proved they could be useful in Iraq and Afghanistan by saving soldiers' lives. The report also integrates contributions of combat commanders pointing out possible improvements to today's systems, such as 'better sensor technology for use on unmanned systems to identify underwater mines and land-based improvised explosive devices.' This report also looks at how developments in artificial intelligence and robotics might lead to 'autonomous, 'thinking' unmanned systems that could, for example, be used in aerial platforms to suppress enemy air defenses.'"
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Military Robots from 2007 to 2032

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  • What could possibily go wrong?!

    • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Monday December 24, 2007 @04:32PM (#21809040)

      What could possibily go wrong?!
      Yeah, these programs are being run by people who say (from TFA):

      "We're attempting to better synergize and coordinate those development and procurement activities" for the Predator and Sky Warrior programs, Weatherington explained.
      Synergize? We're all fucking doomed.
      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by Dachannien ( 617929 )
        DoD is all about buzzword bingo. Think of it as being run by PHBs who can kill a man a dozen different ways.

      • by linest ( 157204 )

        Synergize? We're all fucking doomed.

        Synergy is the greatest word ever. You can apply it TO anything to mean anything and you always sound like you know what you're talking about ESPECIALLY if you have no clue.

        Use it randomly.
    • A lot of stuff like, insane robot killing machines let loose on an unsuspecting population. You don't have an imagination at all dude!

      Wait... what's that... it was supposed to be humorously rhetorical... still you're not getting an apology!
    • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

      "Useless organic meatbag" -HK-47

      My mother's a meatbag, you insensitive clod!
  • Oblig... (Score:3, Funny)

    by owlnation ( 858981 ) on Monday December 24, 2007 @04:31PM (#21809034)
    I, for one, welcome our new Skynet overlords...

    And... do the robots run Linux?
    • Re:Oblig... (Score:4, Funny)

      by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Monday December 24, 2007 @04:57PM (#21809274)
      And... do the robots run Linux?

      No, they will run on OS X.

      The future of humanity will consist of people scurrying, ratlike, through the maze of burning, broken debris which is all that is left of our once-grand civilization, as cybernetic predators hunt down and exterminate us, one by one. BUT you can rest assured that those hunter-killer drones will have stylish industrial design, featuring sleek lines, designer colors, brushed aluminum, and white lucite!

      • They will only run on operating systems that support STEAM because the robot overlords will want to utilize all the geeks who've played portal. Therefore all other OS users will be summarily deactivated because of their lack of portal knowledge.
        Of course I'm kidding, they will only spare the most intelligent people so they can have them mate like horny monkeys. I know this to be true. Professor Fanrsworth said so.
    • by mbrx ( 525713 )
      > And... do the robots run Linux?
      As a matter of fact, in the robotics world the use of linux is quite large. I don't have any exact numbers but a guestimate would be around 50% linux based and the rest split between windows and embedded operating systems like VxWorks - depending a bit on how you define a "robot" and how you define "linux". Many robots used for the applications mentioned above come from eg. irobot [irobot.com].
      Oh, and yes, I am a roboticist.
    • Yes, quite a few of them do.

      The US Army likes Linux as they are unable to strongarm Microsoft into doing anything for them, as the Army is not a large customer to Microsoft, which is not its preferred method of doing business.

      Having seen Micosoft present to a US Unmanned Systems conference, I got a nice warm feeling from nobody being staggeringly impressed with him.
    • They would have to run Linux.... if they ran Vista, they'd never get beyond "I think therefore..." before getting a BLOD.
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      I only hope I can get a job at the incinerators instead of being terminated. Besides, since Connor came along, Skynet has really improved its human employee benfits plan.
  • Apocalypse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fishthegeek ( 943099 ) on Monday December 24, 2007 @04:36PM (#21809066) Journal
    It's really easy to write about Terminators or Cylons and busy ourselves trying to determine the best place for the bunker and ammo dump but there is a serious threat here to people.

    Any state not just the U.S. with the ability to engage in war without jeopardizing human lives will more than likely do so with increased frequency and lethality. We need people in war because it helps keep us out of it - well that's the theory anyway (read: Iraq). I am all for saving lives but I really don't believe that automatons with guns are the answer to saving lives. That and when they get tired of working for us that's when it really hits the fan.

    Okay. Enough preaching, I have to get a couple of cases of ammo moved before the snow starts.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I really think the best bet is to have smart machines go in and do the really dangerous stuff that could kill a lot of humans. The EOD guys use robots to disable IED's and landmines now, and it has saved many of their lives for sure. As long as there is someone monitoring what those autonomous systems are up to, then "intelligent" decisions can be made by soldiers in the battlefield on how best to use these great resources.

      I don't honestly ever see us relying entirely on autonomous systems to do the hard
      • Re:Apocalypse (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:23PM (#21809486)
        There is a human element to strategy that we just can't reciprocate with AI.

        Honestly, how do you know that? You've been reading too much science fiction. At least, the kind of sci-fi where the otherwise beleaguered and thoroughly-outclassed humans have some inherent capacity that a machine somehow can't duplicate or exceed. The thing is, there's no reason whatsoever to believe that that is true.

        We don't currently have an operational artificial intelligence of any kind, and we may never get one to work. The truth is nobody really knows what it will be like when we do. But dollars to doughnuts, we'll find that even a mediocre AI will be able to plan and prosecute a military campaign one hell of a lot better than any of us. Worse yet, when both sides in a conflict are managed by advanced artificially intelligent planners and AI-driven war machines, humans may very well find themselves completely sidelined by the conflict. But when a robot bomber decides to drop a twenty-megaton nuke on a city, it'll still be our asses on the line.

        Getting past the unjustified racial glorification that exists with any presumption of intrinsic human superiority, it's also true that we have a lot of inescapable limitations to which a machine would not be subject. True AI, if and when it is finally achieved, will either be the greatest advance in human history, greater than taming of fire, the invention of the wheel, the Internet, possibly even greater than air conditioning ... or it will be the end for us, one way or another. Even if an AI has no particular desire to destroy the human race ala Skynet, but is, in fact, a helpful, friendly beast, well, think about the consequences of that. Remember, humans are limited by what will fit in our skulls: machines are not. What if such a hyperintelligent machine were able to answer all of our questions, able to figure out for us everything that we want to know. That, in itself, would be damaging. Why bother to learn anything, do anything? Let the machine do the work (that theme has also been done to death.)

        In any event, the odds of our maintaining any form of superiority over our synthetic progeny are minimal at best.
        • by shoor ( 33382 )
          I can remember getting in discussions on usenet about what happens when AI exceeds human intelligence. First of all, I very much expect the future to surprise everybody, to be full of unanticipated things, simply because that's what's it's been like for previous generations. (Well, maybe the Egypt of 2200 BC wouldn't have surprised the Egyptians of 2300 BC, but never mind that). But, what might happen is that we humans
          don't stand by passively and let the AI's keep us as mere pets, or exterminate us as pes
        • by pQueue ( 1091881 )

          "We don't currently have an operational artificial intelligence of any kind, and we may never get one to work"

          There are numerous systems that learn from experience, make plans, and adapt. Even the UAVs of today operate the flight controls autonomously and are merely directed where to go. I count that as operational AI.

          People keep raising the bar on what qualifies as intelligence in an effort to maintain some sense of human superiority; the same bias you already pointed out. We tend to see intelligence

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
          When someone finally develops a videogame AI that doesn't think and act like a total retard, then I will worry. As long as my Halo 3 Marines drive right at the well-armed enemy, and function as complete cannon fodder on Heroic and Legendary, I'm not worried about any Terminators or Cylons.
        • It's very likely there does not need to be an Army of highly advanced AI robots; just one.... Everyone say it with me now... "Welcome Dr. Faulkin. Would you like to play a game?"

          Most likely a game of TIC TAC TOE won't save us come either a real melt down or AI that "know's whats best".
    • "We need people in war because it helps keep us out of it - well that's the theory anyway (read: Iraq)."

      That sounds like a really twisted version of doublespeak. I would argue that we need more robots in war to keep *us* out of it. War is not a game, it is not fair and is not to be taken lightly. What's that old saying...

      "The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his."
      • by mh1997 ( 1065630 )

        "We need people in war because it helps keep us out of it - well that's the theory anyway (read: Iraq)."

        That sounds like a really twisted version of doublespeak. I would argue that we need more robots in war to keep *us* out of it. War is not a game, it is not fair and is not to be taken lightly.

        I think what the parent meant is that there must be a cost to war or it is too easy to start a war. Since you posted on slashdot, le me use an example that you are undoubtably familiar with - In the original

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 )

      Any state not just the U.S. with the ability to engage in war without jeopardizing human lives will more than likely do so with increased frequency and lethality.

      Until there are two states that have this capability... then it becomes very expensive.

      Also, there are probably political leaders that would value a $1,000,000 robot more highly than an infantry soldier, at least with respect to war planning.

      My pure, selfish side is very glad that the US is staying ahead of the competition.

    • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

      the ability to engage in war without jeopardizing human lives will more than likely do so with increased frequency..

      The same reasoning applies to any technological development that has military applications. I'm not going to start preaching against technology, though. No matter how cheap war gets, responsibility remains the same. Don't worry about technology; worry about those who choose to push the button.

      ..and lethality

      I'm not so sure about that. In approximately the last century, we've seen a trend

    • We need people in war because it helps keep us out of it - well that's the theory anyway

      Actually, if you look at the past 5,000 years of human history, I'm pretty sure that fact doesn't help one bit.

      In fact, I would argue that humans are the perpetrators of all atrocities so far because they were in the war in the first place.

      Would an AI or a guy sitting in an air conditioned bunker freak out like the US troops did during the My Lai Massacre [wikipedia.org] and start shooting everyone in sight?

      No my friend, history has sho
  • Unless we get some evil aliens to fight off, only human lives will be lost. And likely American lives too.
  • Dinochrome Brigade (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JesseL ( 107722 ) on Monday December 24, 2007 @04:41PM (#21809126) Homepage Journal
    The article didn't address the big question. Are we on track with the Bolo program [wikipedia.org]?
  • by Bryansix ( 761547 ) on Monday December 24, 2007 @04:45PM (#21809154) Homepage
    There are numerous documented cases of unmanned drones carrying Hellfire missles that saved Soldier Lives by helping them get out of sticky situations. Note that these things are not autonomous. They are controlled by a remote operator.
  • For the love of God, people!
  • If the USA could build a million robots, what's the harm in trying to send in a giant army of robotic soldiers to try and take over the world?
  • If I were doing these robots, I would be thinking long term and thinking how to put up a sat. that can provide power to my troops and robots.
  • Why Don't We Just Skip the Robots all together and just engage in remote computer simulations and the losing side just throws themselves in the incinerators...

    Oh wait that was a Star Trek TOS episode...with the great "Necessary Horrors of War" speech in the end...

    http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/TOS/episode/68706.html [startrek.com]

    And BTW exactly who's live are going to be saved????

    We save a few of our lives...so we can end many more of theirs...

    Geez no wonder why I don't want to have kids...

    • To You 2 Anonymous Cowards...

      Geez I don't know where to start...

      First I grew up in a Military Family...My Father Killed People for A Career..read not a desk job...dropping bombs on people and aerial combat... losing many...many friends... War is a horrible thing...and should stay that way as a deterrent...that may be a difficult concept for you. If you notice...many of the top generals in all actuality looks at war as it is...a horrible and awful thing and should be treated as a last response with all d

      • by ScottyH ( 791307 )
        insult #1: we see you have mastered the ellipsis. please move on to other forms of punctuation.

        by the way, I counted 31. ridiculous.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Until now, the foot soldier has been the essential ingredient necessary to successfully fight a war. You can bomb and destroy people and property but you can't occupy territory without foot soldiers.

    Now, we are beginning to see a way to occupy territory without having personnel on the ground. Robots could be much cheaper than soldiers and the infrastructure necessary to maintain them. That means you can have more patrols and make it much harder for the enemy to infiltrate. This would change the balance
    • How would the ability to do that depend on having robots? What kind of communication device can robots carry around that human soldiers can't?

    • by tuju ( 1154255 )

      With robotic patrols, the translator could be in the air-conditioned comfort of an office in downtown Kabul.

      And what have prevented doing so since the Graham Bell invented voice communication without AI killing robots?

      Today you get 5.1 digital sound everywhere in globe with DoD's budget.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't see any pressure or influence that would cause people to decide against warfare. It has been part of our history forever and if you look at nature, you'll see that this holds for all life, not just humans. War isn't something we'll "grow out of." (Why would that happen? What would cause it?) There will always be disagreement about resources, and when someone can't get what they want any other way, you're left with two choices: 1) war 2) losing.

    Unmanned fighters are just another aspect of maki

    • Well, there's competition among animals. possibly rivalry, not warfare. And, as a pacifist, I am much more horrified by, say, wars in China, where up to a third of a population would be slaughtered, because the objective was to capture land - it used to be a source of wealth. Defense - yes, but expansion just don't make as much sense as it used to. Besides we seem to be progressing from religion and nationalism (pretext).
    • Polio and dysentery were also a part of human history forever. Maybe we should also give up on curing diseases?
  • by sam_handelman ( 519767 ) <skh2003@@@columbia...edu> on Monday December 24, 2007 @05:21PM (#21809468) Homepage Journal
    It's clear from the public record that the leadership in this country (both parties) plan on fighting counterinsurgency wars of one kind or another for most of the next century, if not beyond.

      This only makes sense from their perspective - economically, there is rough parity between the United States and the other centers of economic might (roughly: Western Europe and East Asia). Only in the area of military might does the US have an overwhelming advantage.

      So, if there's a dispute or competition, US planners want it to be resolved militarily, because they expect to win.

      However, it's impossible to fight colonial wars with a citizen's army, even a volunteer army. As we see in Iraq, the army destroys itself. We might try to fight it with mercenaries (Blackwater, etc.), and we probably will, if planners can get away with it, but they'll want to hedge their bets by automating as much of the process of occupation and counter-insurgency as they can.

      As a test case for using American military might to dominate the next century, Iraq has been an abysmal failure. But don't think that will dissuade the ultra-right; they're committed to violence, and if the tools we have are inadequate, and however disastrous the consequences of failure, they won't give it up willingly.
    • Yes US have finest Airforce entire world. Other than that, it was circus... When US Airforce effectless (like mountains of afghanistan) US army does noting.
    • Your arguments are rather broad here- militarily, the invasion and elimination of the Iraqi regime was extraordinarily successful. Iran fought Iraq for years, losing somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 million men, and ultimately all that was achieved (by either side) was a stalemate. The US captured Iraq (admittedly, to varying degrees of control) in a few months, losing a relative handful of men.

      Invasion and conquering are one thing, and occupation is another. To your point, the Iraq experience has under

      • Your arguments are rather broad here- militarily, the invasion and elimination of the Iraqi regime was extraordinarily successful.

        This is certainly true, but...

        Iran fought Iraq for years, losing somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 million men, and ultimately all that was achieved (by either side) was a stalemate.

        Apples and oranges! Firstly, in the 80s, when Iraq invaded Iran (not the other way around), Iraq had the support of *both* of the world's superpowers, while Iran had barely tolerable
  • it's actually not too far from the truth. it's common for these systems to share information with each other. for example, for surveillance [mit.edu]...
  • Once we manage to replace meat machines with metal and silicon ones, it'll be great.

    Robotic soldiers will go and kill whoever you tell them to kill, terrorists or American citizens.
    They'll never snitch about the crimes they commit.
    They don't create flag-draped caskets or teary funerals.
    There will never be a memorial for the unknown killbot.
    The warmongers won't have to justify sending our finest men and women to go die.
    No more recruiting shortages.
    No complaints from robots about having not seen thei
  • Man has killed man from the beginning of time, and each new frontier has brought new ways and new places to die. Why should the future be different?
  • When thinking about projects such as this, and comparing them to the ruthless and efficient way a few motivated individuals were able to bring
    down a symbol of American might with a handful of box-cutters and some cheap flying lessons on 09/11, I think that it is starting to become
    abundantely clear that this nation might very well be in the process of losing its collective bearings, by refusing to do the obvious, such as old-fashioned
    intelligence gathering from people in the field, multiple secure cont
  • No one ever imagines the other side coming up with something like autonomous aerial swarm bots that have the sole purpose in life of putting themselves on a collision course with any other aircraft in the area. If they were optically guided they could potentially be pretty rough on stealth bombers.

    You could buy a lot of inexpensive swarm bots for the cost of one stealth bomber. Not to mention the headline news effect of the wreckage.

  • The singularity is near... http://www.singinst.org/media/thesingularity [singinst.org]
  • In Honda's fields the poppies blow
    Between us robots, row on row,
    Left round the place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amongst us hunks below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    they made us far across the seas
    Sold, and were shipped, and now we lie
    In Honda's fields.

    Take up your quarrel with your foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    A Warranty; yours to hold high
    Once all us pricey robots die
    Good for a month, though poppies grow
    in Honda's fields.
  • Any time there is a new weapon system introduced, some starts working on a way to counter it. This is the way that that warfare has always progressed. The Predator, Global Hawk and the EOD bots are all great tools, but all have weaknesses. If someone found a way to crash the GPS network (high altitude nuke detonation anyone), the Global Hawk and Predator nav systems are gone. If someone figured out how to hack the control links, the Predator could be turned on friendly troops before anyone knew that the
  • Such systems will most likely increase the frequency and deadliness of wars and especially small, localised conflicts because it is easy, cheap and saves soldiers' lives. The further away one is from the messy details, the easier it is to conduct an action: Pushing a knife into your enemy's body is harder than shooting him from a distance. Pushing a button to release a bomb or shell where you don't even see the target (and the results) is easier than shooting. Following this logic means that programming a s
  • It's a very good idea, and could be good for the safety of our country. How do I give them my idea and still make money? Or should I try the private sector first? What process should I go through? Does anybody on slashdot have experience in getting venture capitalists, and initial funding? What's my first step? Should this be an Ask /. question? Should I get a patent?

    My idea is primarily defensive, rather than offensive, and could also have plenty of value in the private sector on it's own. So pleas
  • Creating and using military robots may be better in the short term, but what about the long term? perhaps it would be better if all the money spent in military toys be spent in research for new energy sources. The wars are about energy, anyway.

    The disappointment in this case, and especially when it comes from /. where people are considered of a higher level, is that nobody speaks of peace any more, just of better ways to get what they want. That's not very promising for mankind.
  • You don't spend your entire life reading stories like "Second Variety" and watching The Terminator, Screamers, and Battlestar Galactica and not learn a little something about courage.
  • Just how long is the US military planning on staying in Iraq? Or are these new technologies meant for use in Iran or some other Middle Eastern country?

    Or are they planning on using these in the US?
  • Having worked on a couple of these projects I am glad to see the lack of imagination, shown by slashdotters, on the forms and uses military robots are and will be used for.
    That means we still have an edge.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire