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  1.  (265.1)
    I was pondering some of the ideas being tossed about over in the "Renegade Technology" discussion when I stumbled across some links (courtesy of Steve Jackson) that frightened me more than gray goo. The trend towards unmanned military vehicles, like the Predator aircraft and the Panther minesweeper, has accelerated, possibly to the point where robotic infantry is not just on the horizon, it is charging forward shooting 12-gauge mini-grenades at you. Check out this little number, which may not be terribly tough, but has a lot of firepower. It is the crazy hillbilly cousin to the Talon SWORD , which seems more durable but less likely to spit lead in every direction.

    And yes, there's a tank too, it's just not as far along. Well, that one isn't, but the Black Knight is looking better for operation.

    My question in regards to all this is: while kinda geeky-cool, does this stuff frighten people? I am little concerned about turning war into a tank simulation game. I am even more concerned about robotic infantry from a standpoint of making governments feel that war has a lower cost, so it's OK to invade other countries or "liberate" them. What is the effect of changing that particular "cost" of waging war?
    • CommentAuthorlex
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
     (265.2)
    Weapons have always been scary stuff. But if there is one thing that the wars in Iraq and Vietnam have shown us, it is that superior weaponry don't automatically imply low-cost warfare and instantaneous victory (quite the contrary).

    Robots typically have several drawbacks:
    - they need to be operated from a distance. AI is in my opinion not (yet?) a viable option.
    - they can be captured and turned against their owners
    - they are not adaptive enough in comparison to well-trained soldiers
    - they have very limited power autonomy
    - Arnie might come back to kick their sorry arses

    I am pretty sure that such robots will be (are?) used in real combat situations, but only as an additional weapon, and not as a replacement for real soldiers.

    P.S.:
    Make love robots, not war robots!
  2.  (265.3)
    MMM. . . love robots. . . .

    In most of the examples I have here, we are talking about remote-controlled machines, but the Black Knight is being developed as "semi-autonomous" and I am sure that someone is working on the proper software suite to make decision-making units. I think that is only a matter of time; maybe a fair bit of time, but our technology seems to advance faster all the time. I was showing my class the movie Trekkies the other day and when they saw one of the 1997-era Macs onscreen they laughed and pointed at the fabulously outdated machine. It even came up briefly in post-film conversation. Who knows what will come first, smart gray goo or self-aware robots?

    It is true that superior weaponry does not assure low cost or victory, but it can certainly be pitched as so and a portion of the citizenry seems to go along with that. I think this will be the latest instance of those in power proclaiming a "solution" to some of the problems and costs of war so that they can go wage it.
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      CommentAuthorGypsy
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007 edited
     (265.4)
    It is scary stuff but I think the reason we're developing technology like this because of our own personal fear of losing people we care about. The sad truth is that, in war, we can make it so that there are fewer casualties, but war will always cost human lives because, even when it becomes mechanized, it should be easy to figure out that in order to stop the robots, you have to stop the humans making and controlling them...the cost will just end up being civilian instead of military. But ultimately, even with the advancements we are making in robotics, it's still all very costly and experimental.
  3.  (265.5)
    Well the thing is with automated soldiers, soon both sides (in whatever war that's cool that week) will have them, and no people will die.

    I don't see how that's scarier (or more effective, depending on how you look at it :D) than a nuke that can fly thousands of miles and wipe out a nation.
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
     (265.6)
    My problem with military technology is the potential lack of emotion/consequence that could come from it. IMO, in ancient times, if you killed someone it was most likely by stabbing/cutting them or beating them to death with something heavy. You had to make that choice and you got to see the results of it up-close-and-personal (and, occasionally, all over you as well). Even with the advent of guns there is still a personal feeling attached to it, my brother is in the military and saw personal combat in Afghanistan and Iraq and it's defintely left marks on him, but a gun is still an easier weapon to pick up and use on someone. I'm not saying that war was any less prevalent in the past due to the very personal nature of it, but I think that it affected people more than a person who is safe in a bunker launching guided missles, killing people he'll never have to see. I can't imagine that having robotic vehicles/infantry would make this any better.

    @Brad McLoughlin
    If you don't see what is scary about having robotic infantry/weapons, then please consider this: Each of those pieces of robotic weaponry have a substantial price tag attached to it, both in developement, production, and maintenance. Furthermore, only certain countries will be able to afford them. Oh, sure, soon enough there may be knock-offs, or countries might sell their obsolete models to second and third world countries, but the first world countries will still have the faster, tougher robots allowing them to always be able to maintain their military might over the lesser countries.

    Expanding this further, if there is no cost in human life with war, which for many people is the true cost of war because IMO people people care less about the budget money they'll never see than they do about the fact that their son was sent home in a pine box with a flag draped over it, because war has gone robotic then war becomes "cheaper." Now war is a monetary issue, not a human life issue, and because of that may become more prevalent. With the lack of lost human lives, people may become more apathetic towards war since the only thing you're losing, if you're in a country rich enough to afford them, is essentially an advanced toaster with guns attached to it and nevermind the fact that those toasters are killing flesh and blood people as long as it isn't OUR people.
  4.  (265.7)
    @Brad McLoughlin:

    I don't see how that's scarier (or more effective, depending on how you look at it :D) than a nuke that can fly thousands of miles and wipe out a nation.

    For me, it is scarier because the use of this stuff is more likely and can be more easily rationalized than letting a nuke fly. And while we may see hot robot-on-robot action someday, those who use them first will use them against humans. And I can envision tactics of both governments and insurgents who use them to target civilian populations.
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
     (265.8)
    @erudite_ogre

    For me, it is scarier because the use of this stuff is more likely and can be more easily rationalized than letting a nuke fly. And while we may see hot robot-on-robot action someday, those who use them first will use them against humans. And I can envision tactics of both governments and insurgents who use them to target civilian populations.

    Heh, how long until your MollyMaid robot is hacked and comes at you with a cleaver?
  5.  (265.9)
    @ renthing

    The countries that wouldn't be able to afford automated soldiers etc. would be the same countries that the US would have no difficulty in invading/attacking right now. Money means the US is always going to be one of the most advanced countries with regards to military equipment and training, and taking into account inflation and black market availability etc., I really don't think that poorer countries would be any further behind than they are right now. Do you think a military base in Nigeria would have any more or less luck defending against robot infantry than it would a stealth bomber with a human pilot?

    I really think, aside from what would be a more incidental "we won't lose any of our boys 'cus now we have robots" it would make all that much difference. Shit, I mean America generally doesn't hear much about any of their soldiers dying until 10 years after as it is.

    To be honest, I think mass unemployment would be the biggest drawback of the introduction of an automated military... Which is weird.

    @ erudite-ogre

    Okay, maybe nuke was an overstatement, but there are other terrifying lethal long distance weapons, which I think makes the same point.
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
     (265.10)
    @ Brad McLoughlin

    The countries that wouldn't be able to afford automated soldiers etc. would be the same countries that the US would have no difficulty in invading/attacking right now.

    True, but with a robotic army that becomes even easier because now that cost of life that I mentioned isn't a factor for us. That means that there could be more bullshit wars over trumped up lies, which isn't a good thing.

    Money means the US is always going to be one of the most advanced countries with regards to military equipment and training, and taking into account inflation and black market availability etc., I really don't think that poorer countries would be any further behind than they are right now.

    I would argue that this isn't true. Technologically speaking, Iraq's military technology was considered to still be in the 1960's, maybe the '70's when we went the first time during Desert Storm and they got crushed. If that is true and we were to develope a robotic portion of our military, it would be another 30-40 years until any of the third world countries were able to have that outmoded technology. I mean, sure, Iran has an airforce now but I believe it consists of old Soviet MIGs and the planes we have now could, literally, fly rings around those.

    Shit, I mean America generally doesn't hear much about any of their soldiers dying until 10 years after as it is.

    I'm going to guess that your statement was a sarcastic exageration because, having a brother in the military, it generally isn't true.

    To be honest, I think mass unemployment would be the biggest drawback of the introduction of an automated military... Which is weird.

    That's actually a really good point, and one that I have to admit I hadn't considered.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
     (265.11)
    Mass unemployment? Nah! You can bet that Halliburton (you just know they'll get the cost-plus maintenance contract) will find it necessary to give every greasemonkey a secretary and a deputy assistant tool wrangler.
  6.  (265.12)
    I mean, sure, Iran has an airforce now but I believe it consists of old Soviet MIGs and the planes we have now could, literally, fly rings around those.

    That was basically my point (I may have wandered aimlessly in what I was saying). The US is so far ahead right now, being further ahead won't make all that much difference. The US is superior to the majority of other countries' armed forces, being further ahead won't make that much of a difference.

    But yeah, i do think you're right about the "human loss" element. With that out of the picture, it would become much easier to promote war as harmless.

    BUT

    I'm going to guess that your statement was a sarcastic exageration because, having a brother in the military, it generally isn't true.

    It was an exaggeration, but not that much of one. Yes, I'm sure, with a brother in the military, you know exactly what goes on. But we all know about the attempts to disallow footage of dead soldiers returning home on TV networks, etc. and not everybody has family in the armed forces.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
     (265.13)
    If you can just send your emotionless horde of stompy metal death killers into every country that annoys you, safe in the knowledge that none of your people will be hurt and that the public back home won't care, you've lost one of the main reasons that people try to avoid fighting wars.

    So it's not the technology itself, it's the complete imbalance it creates because most wars fought by the g8 nations are against numerically and technologically inferior enemies.

    It's the modern equivalent of the mongol hordes utterly destroying the armies of the crusade that were sent against them due to massive superiority in tech.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007 edited
     (265.14)
    "I would argue that this isn't true. Technologically speaking, Iraq's military technology was considered to still be in the 1960's, maybe the '70's when we went the first time during Desert Storm and they got crushed. If that is true and we were to develope a robotic portion of our military, it would be another 30-40 years until any of the third world countries were able to have that outmoded technology. I mean, sure, Iran has an airforce now but I believe it consists of old Soviet MIGs and the planes we have now could, literally, fly rings around those."

    Iraq was pretty much an exception, because of the sanctions and the massive losses they took during the Gulf War and before that the Iran-Iraq war.

    A specific case in point, many developing countries (including Iran) have Russian Komet and RPG-29 anti-tank missiles. The Iraqis had only a handful of them they managed to buy on the black market, but that handful proved effective against Allied front-line tanks.

    I'll start taking claims of massive Iranian military support for the Iraqi insurgents seriously when those insurgents start using large numbers of RPG-29's (which the Iranians manufacture under license and which they've already supplied to Hezbollah).

    On the specific issue of airpower, many developing countries are now using the Sukhoi 27 and Sukhoi 30 fighters which are technically superior to any fighter aircraft currently deployed by the US (other than the F22 which is only now coming into service). The superior training and tactics of US pilots means they probably still have the edge but its not that great.

    The reason the Sukhois got ahead of the US is that fighter development has become a hugely expensive multi-decadal affair. Robots, at least at first are unlikely to be as expensive or complex.
    • CommentAuthorlex
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2007
     (265.15)
    I don't know if any of you guys have followed the Iraq war (the one still going on right now). The fighting part where such robots would have been useful was over in several months. But the occupation following the invasion cannot be done by robots. You can bomb away infrastructure, disable the enemy army with robots, whatever, but in the end you need real military presence with real people. I don't know the numbers, but I am pretty sure that most of the casualties on US side have occurred after the actual fighting.
    The point is that some (many? most?) problems cannot be solved by throwing money or superior technology at them. That is a lesson western civilization still has to learn.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2007
     (265.16)
    "But the occupation following the invasion cannot be done by robots. You can bomb away infrastructure, disable the enemy army with robots, whatever, but in the end you need real military presence with real people."

    Well the occupation forces are using bomb disposal robots.

    They're also using packbots (small man-portable tracked robotic vehicles with cameras) for urban surveillance. (I've heard rumors that some packbots have been illegally modified by the troops to equip them with grenade-launchers and shotguns. I don't now if that's been confirmed or not.)

    Some of the robotic systems under development are intended for close-in urban combat situations. for example, mini-UAVs for surveillance and robots for carrying loads and evacuating wounded troops.)

    You're right that there will be a need for boots on the ground for the foreseeable future but the nature of warfare is changing.
  7.  (265.17)
    <blockquote>Well the thing is with automated soldiers, soon both sides (in whatever war that's cool that week) will have them, and no people will die.</blockquote>

    Eh? Even assuming that both sides have them, what happens when your side runs out of robots? Do you say "okay, we lost", or do you say "shoot the robots!"? And...who says these robots will only be shooting each other, even if both sides have them?

    The concern I have there is the further de-personalisation of killing, which I expect would lead to more civilian casualties.
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      CommentAuthormrghosty
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2008
     (265.18)
    This whole automated machines of war is one step closer to SkyNet. and we know where that gets us don't we.
  8.  (265.19)
    We keep trying to make new ways of fighting a war, instead of sticking to the good and old infantry. Wars cost lives. That's the sad truth. Building nukes won't get us nowhere, neither will making robots. We're trying to create machines that fight as well as humans, and forgetting how fucking dumb that is. You want to fight a war? An army here, the other there, and armament that will destroy parts of the battlefield, not the whole fucking world, and there you go. Of course, it would be preferable NOT to fight a war, but that's utopia.
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      CommentAuthormrghosty
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2008
     (265.20)
    Anyone remember a rather crappy sci-fi flick called RobotJox? In it, instead of fighting wars, disputes were solved by having robotic gladiators fight each other. It sounds silly but perhaps better than constructing a bunch of automated machinery to fight for us.

    I agree with you Andrenavarro, it would be nice to get past the whole war thing and into something more peaceful, it's a shame we're all savages really. Oh and McCluhan's WAR AND PEACE IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE speaks a lot about technological progress as nothing more than our ability to take more lives with each war we wage. It's fascinating stuff.