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Robotics The Military Hardware Politics

Afghanistan Called First "Robotic War" 288

retroworks writes "Fareed Zakaria (Editor of Time, CNN GPS) writes that one in 50 USA combatants in Afghanistan is now a robot. There are more fighting robots than elevators in the country. Article has links to film of robots in action, allusions to Terminator films."
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Afghanistan Called First "Robotic War"

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  • Re:tools, not robots (Score:4, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @09:56AM (#35719852) Journal
    Where exactly one wants to draw the line between "tool" and "robot" is arguably somewhat arbitrary; but there are definite matters of degree and substantial complexities.

    For instance, a simple mine is actually 'autonomous'. It has very limited capabilities; but it exercises those entirely without human intervention, based on sensor data. In both land and naval use, the Chinese were putzing around with recognizable antecedents of those not long after they acquired gunpowder, and various European tinkerers not too long after. Does the use of mines count as "robotic warfare"? Some of the more sophisticated modern examples are just as autonomous and have greater capabilities: a CAPTOR mine [] has enough onboard computing power to distinguish between ships and submarines by sound, and launch its (homing) torpedo at the latter. All fully autonomous, and circa 1979...

    On the other hand, a lot of modern combat "robots" are basically very high performance RC vehicles, albeit often with some sophisticated software handling translation of abstract operator commands into robot actions(with Predators, say, you don't 'fly' them the way you fly an RC aircraft for most of their flight time, they handle a lot of the low-level detail to allow operators to focus on waypoints and target acquisition. With the more sophisticated robotic bomb-defusers and their ilk, their fairly complex manipulators handle all the fiddly little servos internally, in order to achieve manipulator commands provided by the operator).

    That's the definitionally tricky bit: there are extremely simple devices that are fully autonomous within the limited scope of their capabilities. There are also extremely sophisticated devices, with almost eerily organic levels of feedback-driven 'housekeeping' going on in order to allow the operator to give the device fairly high level commands; but which are specifically designed to do nothing of importance without the OK from a human.

    Then you have the ones that can be used either way: Phalanx CIWS can do fully automatic target engagement(because puny meat-objects simply don't have the reflexes for the job) or can be kept under human supervision(because nothing says "expensive accident" like a trigger-happy Gatling-gun robot operating in the vicinity of friendly aircraft...)

    As best I can tell, it seems like autonomy is less of a pure design challenge, and more a question of the practical and PR constraints that you have to abide by in terms of target discrimination... Humans are OK at that, which certainly places them above all but reasonably sophisticated automated systems; but they are hardly perfect. How much of the unwillingness to cut the robots loose is due to their inferiority to humans at this task, and how much is due to human distaste for the idea of automated hunter-killer robots is not entirely clear.(Nor is it entirely clear that they aren't being used: The CIA, for instance, loves drone strikes, and doesn't exactly issue press releases about the operator/drone ratio they are using...)
  • by jon3k ( 691256 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @10:17AM (#35720128)
    That's some of the most disconnected babbling I've ever seen. We arrest people here for spousal abuse. In the middle east crowds of people will stone a woman to death for adultery. If you cannot see the distinction you are completel disconnected from reality.

    And to speak to your other completely unrelated point, everyone in the US has the CHANCE to succeed, nothing is guaranteed, and the privileged and wealthy sure have a better shot at it than the poor.
  • Re:[citation needed] (Score:4, Informative)

    by Posting=!Working ( 197779 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @10:45AM (#35720530)

    This entire post is a wonderful fantasy that is completely proven false by nearly all of the actual events of World War 2. The Rape of Nanking by itself destroys any notion that their culture had "accountability to yourself for your actions." If you weren't Japanese, you weren't

    Look at the rest of the world. Power-mad leaders, self-righteous pompous bastards in the streets. We want to loudly proclaim our strong sense of right and wrong, we want to trample over everyone around us and force them to bend to our system of beliefs, and we'll use any method necessary. Our leaders will manipulate the political sphere and let innocents suffer to further our goals; they'll hire terrorists while proclaiming their vehement stance against terrorism. Accountability is only to the public eye: they only care about saving their own political face, and have no guilt over their actions.

    This paragraph accurately portrays the Japanese at the start of WWII.

    Read some actual history. What you described isn't even close to an accurate portrayal of mid 20th century Japan.

  • Re:[citation needed] (Score:4, Informative)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @10:49AM (#35720594)
    Holy hell are you ignorant of history. The US ran an occupational government in Japan for seven years. And basically helped them draft their constitution at gunpoint. Democracy in Japan was most assuredly not a natural occurrence.
  • Re:[citation needed] (Score:4, Informative)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @11:55AM (#35721408)
    Giving you the benefit of the doubt, you are dangerously equating "strong states" with "socio-political structures [...] similar to those we have in the west". Please tell me this isn't based on something as simplistic as empire = empire? I would very much like to know these 'Western' structures. Perhaps you think that the House of Peers was 'Western' because they wore suits and top hats and followed parliamentary procedure? I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

    The occupational government in Japan was focused on governance - not on creating a state and the necessary infrastructure and fighting an insurgency.

    This is the exact opposite of historical facts. The new Japanese constitution was drafted primarily by US Army lawyers Milo Rowell and Courtney Whitney. The Japanese constitution as passed during the occupation has never been amended.

    Further while there might not have been an insurgency analogous to that in Afghanistan or Iraq, if you think the transition was some simple void to be filled, I have to go so far as to say you must be stupid as well as ignorant. Many, many forces were at work against the interests of the US occupation, including but not limited to the zaibatsu, the military and police infrastructure (see The Police In Occupation Japan: Control, Corruption and Resistance to Reform by Christopher Aldous), the yakuza, the Soviets and Japanese communists, etc. Just because the insurgency wasn't blowing shit up did not mean there wasn't one.

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