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Guns For Bots

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MSNBC has a cool story on how the Japanese are going to start fielding security robots as early as next year. (neat picture) Couple that with the military's current creation of remote-controlled robots armed with automatic weapons and we've got a whole new world opening up out there, folks. Aside from the "Terminator" references, just how would you go about testing something like this? Care to be the guy who puts the first automatic grenade launcher in the hands of a fully autonomous robot?

"Hey Bob, go down there and arm the Mark IV with a few of these fragmentation grenades. Then tell it that it's mother was a can opener. Let us know how it goes, okay?"

Or heaven forbid the bug reports on these: "System shot users and blew up command post. Severity of bug: critical. Assigned to: Tech Support Rambo" -- you'd have to have special ops guys working tech support. Wouldn't want to tick those guys off.

I would guess that for fully autonomous robots with guns (which haven't been built yet, but we're close) you would have to do some sort of side-by-side training with a live human at the controls. Then maybe some time with dummy ammunition. Or course, you could always tell people the things were armed when in fact they weren't -- who's going to try to find out? There's quite a bit of fear factor going on with these inventions already.

But one day, in the not-so-distant future, some autonomous machine is going to kill somebody because it felt like it. Programming bug, design flaw, bad instructions -- you name it, there will be blame for all. And the question we have to ask ourselves now is: is there anything we can do to make building systems like these any safer?

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This page contains a single entry by Daniel published on June 23, 2005 8:24 PM.

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Daniel Markham