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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 3:29:20 PM , Rating: -1
Just as an aside there are almost twice as many Christians as Muslims if you care to contemplate a religious war.

That's not a bad point, if you could count Christianity as being one great worldwide community. There's a huge divide between Catholics and Protestants. I suppose you could also say that there is a strong divide these days between Muslims as well, but my point was to respond to those who seem to be painting the whole thing as an "Islam" vs the "Western World" issue. One more point- many Christians live in South America, and most countries in South America have had a tenuous (at best) relationship with the rest of the Western World; and there are definitely better relationships in South America with Middle Eastern countries.

Keep in mind, I'm responding to various arguments based on the argument presented. These are not necessarily indications of my personal view.

Truthfully, my personal standpoint is that I don't look at these issues as real issues of religion, I see them as political struggles- which is what they are. And here is where I will respond to your second point:

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.

Firstly, if you look at the reasons why terrorists are committing their acts, you'll find that these are for political reasons. They use the name of God to justify and sanctify the act, but all of bin Laden's demands are political and not religious. bin Laden wants American influences out of Middle Eastern territories- that's a political goal- here is a text of his demands:

You'll notice that the vast majority of them are political goals. While he does call for a conversion to Islam, it's obvious that this is not his primary goal. In order to validate himself with the identity he's using to convince others to commit these acts, he needs to do this, or risk the more fundamental of his followers dissenting because he's not Muslim enough. It's actually not that much different than when a President invokes themes of patriotism to accomplish political goals as well.

Now, about your point: just because someone self identifies as being Muslim and some Muslims support his acts doesn't mean the acts and Islam have any real connection.

1) There are Christians in the Middle East who support bin Laden- does this mean terrorism is somehow a component of Christianity?

2)Additionally, there have been Christian terrorists trying to accomplish non-Arab goals. If you have any doubt about this- look at how the U.S. treats South American revolutionaries.

3) I refer back to my point about 1.2 billion Muslims- most of them are not in the Middle East. If most Muslims supported terrorism, we should be seeing more atrocities and greater levels of terrorism.

So my overall point is that Islam and Terrorism are not mutually inclusive- they might be mutually coincidental- and this is only because Terrorists are using Muslim identity- but they are only as mutually coincidental as Christian Terrorists, or American Terrorists.

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.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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