Iraqi War Robots Recalled Following Alarming Behavior
April 11, 2008 2:51 PM
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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?
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
4/12/2008 2:19:17 PM
I think it is more likely for terrorists to gain control of a nuclear weapon before they gain control of the robot.
The classified technical information surround the bot's wireless control is more than likely out of the reach of 99.99% of insurgents, who would more likely be focused on said nuclear bomb.
4/13/2008 6:18:46 PM
I read in Investors Business Daily earlier in the week that most spies are now driven by ideology rather than cash, the reverse of the Cold War days.
Someone, some group of people, in the military has their fingers on the right information. Islamic fascists have blended in mostly inconspicuously in the US and UK; all it takes is a well placed turn-coat in the right job.. Granted, them getting a mole that deep might take time, but Al Qaeda has proven its willing to let plans percolate for many years.
As for being more interested in a nuclear bomb, they can walk and chew gum at the same time.
"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer
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