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August 05, 2010



Interesting concept, and maybe close to reality, to an extent. The US has made an unofficial commitment to either keeping a man in the loop (which can mean different things in different systems to different people) or focusing on autonomous systems (read, robots) that target the weapons of war (the bow or the arrow) instead of human combatants (the archer). DoD procurements are required to demonstrate compliance with ROE prior to deployment, this presages autonomous robotics, unless those systems can be sufficiently and quickly "verified and validated" -- see Air Force publication "Technology Horizons".

The foreseeable future is that not all technologically sophisticated countries accept the same criteria as we have built into our weapons development, acquisition, and deployment processes. This means sophisticated (discriminatory) or unsophisticated (indiscriminate) weaponized robotics can become a nasty little problem.

In this vein, extreme groups such as the ICRAC have called for a total ban on weaponized robotics, but that won't ever go very far. Without going to such an extreme, the need is there to predict, watch, and warn against weaponized robotics: a task which I bet that the DIA TWD is on top of, and if they're not then they should be.


I like sci-fi, as long as you don't take it too seriously (my post on 1984 being a good example of the problems of futurism).

Your idea of rogue weaponized bots is an interesting side scenario that no one's really explored in sci-fi yet.


Ahem, the rampant droidism inherent in Star Wars ("Your droids, we don't serve their kind here, they'll have to wait outside") is notably absent.

Though, it must be said, C-3PO is quite the racist himself, when he refers to Jawas as "disgusting creatures".


I think the sequel to this post will be an analysis of how humans fictionally use robots in warfare.

Paul T. Mitchell

Wait, Microsoft can't even design a good operating system - a combat robot that can out think a human (and worse yet, a group of them) is not even remotely possible. We'll kick their metal behinds every time (especially if Bill Gates builds them)!


That's how we'll defeat the machines - we just have to make sure that all of them run on Windows Vista.

david ronfeldt

fun insightful post, adam. my view: the wachowski bros. deserve damnation to robot hell. matrix 2 contained a possibility for an alliance between good humans and good robots, who'd later have a showdown with evil robots and bad humans. but no, instead matrix 3 turned trite and went for a banal showdown, one human vs. one robot, spoiling the initial innovativess of the matrix series. (the wachowskis also deserve damnation for driving a techno music score over the peerless sonics of a ducati motorcycle engine at song.)

Joseph Fouche

The awful combination of MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11 would be more appropriate. Skynet would be just about to destroy the world only to be stymied by Grandma opening up Solitare and hogging all the CPU resources.


Joseph Fouche, you've brought back some nightmares...I think I'm going to a flashback and start kicking some ass, like people in 1980s action movies

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