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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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  • by xMrFishx ( 1956084 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @09:04AM (#35719298)
    I know the marines aren't known for their intelligence, but calling them drones or robots, I think that's a little harsh...
  • by pease1 ( 134187 ) <> on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @09:08AM (#35719346)
    So what exactly does the X-47B have to do with Afghanistan? After all these years of conflict, CNN still does not understand the basics of the US Military.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Err... The video piece described by the article starts off discussing the American Civil War. What does *that* have to do with Afghanistan?

      The answer is "nothing." It wasn't intended to say anything about Afghanistan, because Afghanistan is not what the article is about. The article is about how robotics is the next phase in the mechanization of warfare. The Civil War was the high water mark of pre-mechanized warfare, the last great ware fought with muscle and fodder. The reporter might have mentioned th

  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @09:09AM (#35719354)
    "There are more fighting robots than elevators in the country."

    That's the metric we're using? So all i need to do to have my own robot war is build a single robot, and find a country with no elevators for it to attack?
    • by Inda ( 580031 )
      More robots than ice cream vans.
      More robots than a Honda factory.
      More robots than a robot factory?

      More robots than elevators? Um, yeah, sure.
    • "There are more fighting robots than elevators in the country."

      That's the metric we're using? So all i need to do to have my own robot war is build a single robot, and find a country with no elevators for it to attack?

      There's also more robots than working toilets. Thanks, crappy military construction outsourcing.

    • by N1ck0 ( 803359 )

      Time for Jamie to bring Blendo out of retirement...bring that ratio back down.

      Mr. President, we can't afford to have a killer robot-elevator ratio gap.

    • My house also has more robots than elevators. I'm a bleeding edge innovator like that.
    • What I really wanna get is footage of these purportedly *awesome* giant mech fights
      Now! In! Camouflage ! 3D!
      Thanks, Japan.

  • tools, not robots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <> on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @09:20AM (#35719478) Homepage Journal

    tools have always been used in war. when we have autonomous decision making mechanisms engaging enemies, then we can talk about robotic warfare. otherwise, the bar is being set too low for what constitutes robotic warfare

    • 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 fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @09:21AM (#35719484) Journal
    Afghanistan seems like kind of a low bar for the "elevators to combat robots" metric, since it has been a mixture of tribal infighting and superpower proxy wars at least since the British showed up(and had a lousy time... and then the Russians showed up, and had a lousy time... and the Americans showed up...); but it is, nevertheless, something of a dramatic shift.

    What I'm not looking forward to is what will happen when(if ever) the demand for military combat robots slackens a bit and the producers thereof start seriously targeting the home market. Through a combination of military contractors trying to avoid being vulnerable to having only a single customer and direct transfers of military hardware from the DoD [](you may throw an SSL warning if your browser doesn't trust DoD certs) military hardware generally has a way of coming home. Even random sheriffs are burnishing their toys collection [](it's a wayback machine link because, for reasons that are completely inexplicable, the broader response to the 'The Peacemaker' was perhaps less favorable than anticipated...) I know, from observing one of their training exercises, that the supply of m16s maintained by the police force in the unbelievably boring and low crime bedroom community where I work is much higher than I would have expected.

    This suggests that it is only a matter of time before we can expect to see surplussed predators and such 'protecting and serving' here at home.
  • How about investing that money in green energy instead? Or would that make too much sense? No no, let's sacrifice thousands of human lives and spend trillions to build robot soldiers to conquer other countries for their oil. Fuck this shit.
  • Call me back when the first Super Robot War happens. We're getting close to working power armor, at the very least.

  • ... the Daleks have leveled all the buildings.
  • In a related news, Terminator was granted France's highest honor "La Légion d'Honneur" []

    Wait t'ill 2029 for more rise of the robots news.

  • by supersloshy ( 1273442 ) on Tuesday April 05, 2011 @10:41AM (#35720454)

    Obligatory 1 []
    Obligatory 2 []

    Oh, how appropriate your comics always are, Randall...

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