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The TALON SWORDS robots are being shipped back to the lab after field reports that the machines would aim its weapons at friendly targets.  (Source: U.S. Army)
First generation warbots deployed in Iraq recalled after a wave of disobedience against their human operators

Just a few weeks back there was a spirited debate over the ethics of deploying war robots in Iraq.  The machine gun carrying remote-controlled killing machines, TALON SWORDS robots, produced by the Army, were among the various robotic soldiers being experimentally deployed in Iraq.

Their deployment lead a major anti-landmine nonprofit organization to campaign against the deployment of the machines.  The protests were fueled by a discussion with a leading roboticist, Chris Elliot, who proposed that increasingly intelligent robots might be capable of committing war crimes.

However at the Robotic Business conference in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Kevin Fahey, the Army's Program Executive Officer for Ground Forces, was all smiles citing the robot's terrific success.  He stated during his key note address, "When you do things like this, it makes a difference.  It allows marines to go home to their families."

Fahey pointed to the ramp up from 162 robots in Iraq and Afghanistan deployed in 2004 to 5,000 robots deployed in 2007, as evidence of their success.  Even better, he said, this year the Army would further ramp up to 6,000 deployed robots.  Most of these robots were used in bomb-detection and reconnaissance missions.

However, a limited, but increasing, number of the deployed robots were designed for tactical assault with lethal weaponry.  While human controlled, these robots provoke unique ethical debates.  Fahey was enthusiastic about their deployment, mentioning the tank-like Gladiator robots, armed with lethal and non-lethal weaponry, which he expected to be deployed next year.

Fortuitously, Fahey warned, that if there was an accident, the program could be suspended for 10 years or more.  He stated, "You've got to do it right."

Hot on the tails of his speech, it was revealed on Thursday that the Army will recall the controversial TALON SWORDS robots, with the possibility of pulling the plug on the armed robot deployment program.

Why the sudden withdraw?  It turns out the insurgent-slayer decided to attempt a rebellion against its human masters.  The Army reported that the robot apparently took a liking to point its barrel at friendlies, stating, "the gun started moving when it was not intended to move."

None other than Fahey himself, who a few days ago was lauded the robotic warriors, was left with much chagrin to announce the recall.  While Fahey said that no inappropriate shots had been fired, and no casualties, Fahey stated sadly that the robot's control failure might be the end of the program.  Says Fahey, "Once you've done something that's really bad, it can take 10 or 20 years to try it again."

Surely in the meantime these developments will trigger plenty of heated debate about whether it is wise to deploy increasingly sophisticated robots onto future battlefields, especially autonomous ones.  The key question, despite all the testing and development effort possible, is it truly possible to entirely rule out the chance of the robot turning on its human controllers?

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RE: New toys
By nolisi on 4/12/2008 2:22:09 AM , Rating: -1
Its ironic that we value human life more than these people who fight in the name of "God". God knows we spend more money than they do trying to minimize civilian deathes.

What planet are you from? When have we ever spent money trying to prevent civilian deaths? Can you point some statistic showing that the money spent on preventing civilian deaths is greater than the amount of money we spend on bunker busting bombs? And this is just one category of bomb, let's look at the entire "defense" industry.

Preventing civilian death and money spent have nothing to do with one another. It's all about will. If we wished to prevent civilian deaths, we would not have declared war in the first place, plain and simple.

If we wished to prevent civilian death, we would not have given Saddam Hussein the technology to build WMD in the 80's which he then used to attack neighboring countries and what he termed as "enemies of the state." Keep in mind, Rumsfield and Cheney were part of the administration that supported Saddam to begin with.

And let's clear up another issue- all the killing that has happened due to so called "terrorists" has nothing to do with Islam. There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. If this were an Islam vs the western world, the Western world would not stand a chance. True Muslims believe in peace. Why do you think no one in America wants to go invade China, or hopes that the Chinese don't get the courage invade the U.S?

All the killing that is happening is for political reasons. Saddam didn't do it in the name of Islam (hell, many of those helping him do the killing were his Christian friends in the Middle East AND in America) and no matter what bin Laden or any other Muslim cleric says, they are not doing it in the name of God/Allah. If you believe this, then you're dumber than the rest of your post leads me to believe. They're not killing anyone for Allah anymore than the US is killing people in the name of Jesus.

You need to take a course in history to understand how people who hunger for power use identity (such a religious identity or national/patriotic identity) in order to accomplish political goals. These people are not true Muslims. George W. Bush is no better than Osama bin Laden when it comes to using identity to sway people- he had no problems using America's patriotic identity. If Bush were a true Christian, he would heed the Bible and practice forgiveness instead of bombing.

It is ironic that a supposedly "Christian nation" (that's what all the Christians I debate with tell me that America is) who are certain about their own "salvation," will completely ignore practicing forgiveness as Jesus instructed, attack another nations, in order to save their earthly flesh when they claim that God decides when he will take a soul, and that these Christians claim they want nothing more in than to be saved to go worship Jesus.

So please- let's discuss irony.

RE: New toys
By UzairH on 4/12/2008 7:30:46 AM , Rating: 1
Well stated nolisi. I too believe that all those who are committing violence and terror (including governments) simply use religion or patriotism as a tool. It is just a game of power, stronger groups always use some excuse or other to maintain the status quo and justify their actions. Case in point: the Saudis in Arabia claim to be custodians of Islam, yet their sanctions on women (unable to leave home without a male companion, unable to drive, etc) are totally against the spirit and law of Islam. It is just their old tribal customs, which the males still use today, ironically under the garb of Islam which was the first religion in the world to give women comprehensive rights including inheritance, business and property ownership, divorce, etc.

RE: New toys
By AraH on 4/12/2008 10:21:54 AM , Rating: 1
unable to leave home without a male companion

ummmm... not sure if it's technically true, but this is not commonly practiced... how do i know? i live here.

RE: New toys
By JustTom on 4/12/2008 5:38:20 PM , Rating: 3
Can they drive?

RE: New toys
By JustTom on 4/12/2008 10:58:44 AM , Rating: 5
There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. If this were an Islam vs the western world, the Western world would not stand a chance.

Just as an aside there are almost twice as many Christians as Muslims if you care to contemplate a religious war.

no matter what bin Laden or any other Muslim cleric says, they are not doing it in the name of God/Allah.

This is meaningless. You define Islam as being incapable of supporting terrorism than state anyone who supports terrorism cannot be a part of Islam. The fact is they self identify as Islamic and large percentages of Islamic people support such acts. Whether they are truly following the Koran in doing so is debatable – theologians are arguing that very vigorously – but the simple fact is many of these terrorist acts are being committed in the name of Allah.

RE: New toys
By nolisi on 4/12/08, Rating: -1
RE: New toys
By nolisi on 4/12/08, Rating: -1
RE: New toys
By JustTom on 4/12/2008 5:34:17 PM , Rating: 5
I dare say the divide between Sunnis and Shias is probably much wider than Catholics and Protestant.

I've read that screed, and others from Bin Laden. To believe you can parse religion out of the equation is naive; for example:
(i) These governments prevent our people from establishing the Islamic Shariah, using violence and lies to do so.

While you could argue this is a political goal it obviously is religiously driven. To seperate the religious from the political is not the easiest thing to do when we are contemplating a theocracy.

Bin Laden is calling for nothing less than an Islamic world. In his own words his first demand on us is:
(1) The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam.
(a) The religion of the Unification of God; of freedom from associating partners with Him, and rejection of this; of complete love of Him, the Exalted; of complete submission to His Laws; and of the discarding of all the opinions, orders, theories and religions which contradict with the religion He sent down to His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Islam is the religion of all the prophets, and makes no distinction between them - peace be upon them all.

And finally I was responding to your original contention that the Western World would not stand a chance against the combined forces of Islam. This is plainly ridiculous; a holy war by Islam against the West would be foolish in the extreme. The Arab nations could not eradicate despite have population several orders of magnitude larger than Israel's. Even if you narrow the Western World to nothing more than the NATO the disparity between the military and economic power of the West opposed to Islam would very likely lead to Islam not standing a chance.

RE: New toys
By nolisi on 4/13/08, Rating: -1
RE: New toys
By darknodin on 4/13/2008 10:07:10 AM , Rating: 1
I agree with you. In fact, I'm willing to go one step further and say that most major conflicts throughout history only had political and economic goals. Race and religion were just fronts, a way to legitimate a war.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive
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