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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 4/13/2008 4:11:28 AM , Rating: -1
I dare say the divide between Sunnis and Shias is probably much wider than Catholics and Protestant.

I would disagree. Perhaps in Iraq in particular there is a large divide, but everywhere else (including the U.S., East/South East Asia, which coincidentally has the largest number and concentration of Muslims) Shia's and Sunni's have practically no issues and will even pray at the same Mosques. This reinforces the idea that much of what we are seeing is politically driven and not necessarily an issue of religion.

If you have another explanation for why Sunni's and Shiites (in general) are not killing eachother outside of the areas that have been directly affected by American forces (in other words, areas that are currently hotbeds of political disagreement and social discord due to war) then I'd love to hear it.

In fact, if you really look at the history, you'll note that the biggest divide between Shiite and Sunni Muslims was the divide between Iraq and Iran during the 80's. Given the US's complicity in Iraq in the 80's (and supporting Saddams craving for more territory- which was a purely political motiviation)- I would continue to argue that the issues brought forth are only religious in as far as the identity was used- the political aims remain clear.

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.

Again- this issue is as I stated, mutually coincidental. If it were a Christian terrorist, he'd be calling for a world governed under Biblical law. The interest here is mostly political and not religious.

Bin Laden is calling for nothing less than an Islamic world.

I addressed this already, and you're allowing yourself to be fooled if you take this at face value.

Firstly- Islam forbids forced conversion explicitly. You can't claim this is religiously driven if it is explicitly forbidden. And reread the text, nowhere does he demand it. A "call" to Islam falls very short of saying "you must convert."

Secondly- there are substantial schools of thought in Islam which say that Christians and Jews are Muslim- to be a Muslim simply means to submit yourself to God. Without knowing bin Laden's context, it's difficult to know what his "call" actually means. In fact, he seems to allude to that school of thought where he says "Islam is the religion of all the prophets, and makes no distinction between them." Given the substantial ambiguity in this "demand" and the softness of a "call," I don't see this as being a real demand at all and you definitely can't take it at face value given the next point.

Lastly, and I've said this already- the overwhelming MAJORITY of the document addresses political issues. Not religious ones. His targets are ALL politically substantial. All of his real demands and targets are political. I think you need to address this in order to make a convincing argument that the issue is religious in nature and not political.

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.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il
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