What does the future of warfare hold? Will we really see emotionless death-machines stalking apocalyptic battlefields? Will humanity merely be reduced to fleshy, water-filled targets to be unceremoniously dispatched by robots which know nothing of love, morality or the pain of warfare?
No. Probably not. At least, not by the looks of Russia's latest robot warrior.
Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited a military research institute outside of Moscow to inspect the latest generation of Russian military hardware. What we saw was certainly terrifying! It now seems the 3 million man Russian army will be complimented with robots which can drive quad-bikes... really, really slowly. Check out the video below:
Yes, that's right. The Russian military have essentially created a robot which looks like a hungover member of Daft Punk trying to get home after a particularly heavy night out on the town. It's unclear if that burning wreckage in the background is a result of the robot's death-ray, but I'm guessing not.
It's often hard to tell what Putin is thinking, but from the looks of things, he was hardly overwhelmed. In fact, if I could read minds, I'd be guessing his would be saying something like, "Well, that was kinda shitty, wasn't it?"
In reality, building a robot which can navigate a course on its own is a major feat. But I wonder if the president will be taking the research team aside and demanding that they Putin more effort.
Other Military Robots
Of course, military robots and automated killing machines are new buzzwords in the defense community.
Automated drones are becoming more common - and controversial - while we've recently seen several robots which have been designed for logistical purposes. Take for example, BigDog, Boston Dynamic's continually abused robotic pack animal.
There is also the SGR-A1 sentry robot by Samsung (yeah, those guys who make the cellphones). This advanced piece of military kit can automatically identify, track and then potentially open fire on approaching targets. The robot can even communicate with humans and ask and receive passwords.
Although usually controlled by a human, it does also have an automatic mode in which it will act autonomously. Check out a promotional video below:
Currently, the United Nations is discussing whether these technologies, known as 'lethal autonomous weapon systems' should be outlawed under international law. The main concern is that although these devices might appear to save human lives by removing them from the combat situation, they also present major moral and ethical issues. The International Committee of the Red Cross also got involved in the proceedings, stating:
There was sense of deep discomfort with the idea of allowing machines to make life-and-death decisions on the battlefield with little or no human involvement.
Furthermore, automating warfare could result in force being used more frequently and not as a last resort, since there will be less public aversion to using robots over human troops. This could lead to a reduction in using diplomacy and negotiation to resolve disputes between parties.
There are also very real legal issues with using automated or semi-automated weapon systems to kill humans, as we have seen with present day drone strikes. Who ultimately takes responsibility? The state? The corporation who made the software? The robot itself?
Do you think military robots are a good idea?