Return of the Killer Death Robots!

Not funny. Not funny at all. From Reuters:

Posted by: Sanjeev Miglani


In a camouflaged trailer truck in the Nevada desert, a bank of computer screens shows live images of a mud-walled compound in Afghanistan, 8,000 miles away. Those pictures are coming from a Predator unmanned aircraft that you, hunched over the computer in the darkened room not far from Vegas, are flying remotely.

Soon two vehicles stop in front of the targeted mud-baked house. Half a dozen bearded men hurry into the house. Seconds later, you squeeze the trigger in Nevada and a 500-pound bomb flattens the building.  Classic Hollywood stuff? Yes, except that this is happening in a real battlefield, and as P.W. Singer, a military expert at Brookings, writes in a new book Wired for War, The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, war by remote control is growing and leading a fundamental change…. [MORE]

And new information on the CIA’s ‘secret’ Predator drone base in Pakistan. (The one that Sen. Diane Feinstein of California accidentally blurted out last week.)

So, a rerun on this story I wrote almost a year ago (which really does include Killer Death Robots info, just wait for it):

1 March 2008…9:01 pm

Killer Death Robots!


And, finally, I really wasn’t kidding about killer death robotsmilitarykillerobot.png. I ran across this story in late October, and had been waiting to see if anyone picked up on it.
Finally, last week, they sort of did. Sort of.

Way down the page on Memeorandum, on February 27 (the blogosphere was dominated by the Dead Wm. F. Buckley story that day) we find this news item

Agence France Presse:

Automated killer robots ‘threat to humanity’: expert …* Increasingly autonomous, gun-toting robots developed for warfare could easily fall into the hands of terrorists and may one day unleash a robot arms race, a top expert on artificial intelligence told AFP…

[* Note: I've changed the link from Breitbart, since, even though it's their most popular story-- 525 "diggs" -- the story itself seemed to have mysteriously vanished when I checked it tonight. Comments still there; story gone. HW]

Yes, that’s right, Virginia, the ultimate chickenhawk wet dream, a robot that will do your killing FOR you, so that you don’t have to, like confront the person you’re going to murder, don’t have to listen to the screams of your victims, or, heaven forfend, get their brains all over your nice, clean REMF fatigues. Oh. Sorry. It seems that what they’re worried about is AUTOMATED killing, not joystick and camera killing. My bad.

As the obligatory asshole expert notes, automated killing could NEVER take place, because, as we all know, Westworld is a place where nothing can possibly go worng (sic).

Courtesy of Common Dreams, the AFP story:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 by Agence France PresseIncreasingly autonomous, gun-totting (sic) robots developed for warfare could easily fall into the hands of terrorists and may one day unleash a robot arms race, a top expert on artificial intelligence told AFP.0227 08“They pose a threat to humanity,” said University of Sheffield professor Noel Sharkey ahead of a keynote address Wednesday before Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.Intelligent machines deployed on battlefields around the world — from mobile grenade launchers to rocket-firing drones — can already identify and lock onto targets without human help.

There are more than 4,000 US military robots on the ground in Iraq, as well as unmanned aircraft that have clocked hundreds of thousands of flight hours.

The first three armed combat robots fitted with large-caliber machine guns deployed to Iraq last summer, manufactured by US arms maker Foster-Miller, proved so successful that 80 more are on order, said Sharkey.

But up to now, a human hand has always been required to push the button or pull the trigger….

OK, class. Now if you’ve been paying attention, you’re way ahead of me. First of all, you now know that these killer robots have ALREADY BEEN USED ON HUMAN BEINGS in Iraq. (I leave it to you to parse the horrific amorality of THAT little innovation.)

And, before I ask you to ask yourself WHY they woudn’t be deployed against YOU, as SWAT teams have increasingly been deployed against citizens of the formerly “land of the brave and home of the free,” I want you to ask yourself this:

… if this isn’t a Constitutional Showdown™, then what the hell is?[Mukasey's contempt of Contempt] should be front page news, in 200 point news gothic on every front page in the land. But it’s not. It’s not as important as pecksniffery on Obama, Hillary and McCain.What on EARTH makes anybody think that there’s GOING to be an election? We don’t even have a Constitution! How about focusing on the crisis in the here and now, rather than playing PEOPLE Magazine with the there and when?

This was what I found back in October (WIRED):


Robot Cannon Kills 9, Wounds 14
By Noah Shachtman
October 18, 2007 | 11:00:00 AM
Categories: Ammo and Munitions, Drones, Guns

We’re not used to thinking of them this way. But many advanced military weapons are essentially robotic — picking targets out automatically, slewing into position, and waiting only for a human to pull the trigger. Most of the time. Once in a while, though, these machines start firing mysteriously on their own. The South African National Defence Force “is probing whether a software glitch led to an antiaircraft cannon malfunction that killed nine soldiers and seriously injured 14 others during a shooting exercise on Friday.”

Which led me to THESE creepy stories (from the same page):

* Roomba-Maker unveils Kill-Bot
* New Armed Robot Groomed for War
* Armed Robots Pushed to Police
* Armed Robots Go Into Action
* Cops Demand Drones
* First Armed Robots on Patrol in Iraq
* Unmanned “Surge”: 3000 More Robots for War
* Taser-Armed ‘Bot Ready to Zap Pathetic Humans
* Top War Tech #5: Talon Robots
* More Robot Grunts Ready for Duty
* Israel’s Killer ‘Bot: Safe Enough for War?

So, here ya go. How come you never heard of this? How come you think they WANT Americans to hear about this? Keep watching Britney. Look! Paris! Lindsey! Ooh!

Armed Robots Go Into Action
By David Hambling

September 10, 2007 | 7:38:00 AM

Categories: Drones, FCS Watch, Gadgets and Gear, Ground Vehicles

There’s a good piece in this month’s National Defense magazine on the deployment of the first armed ground robots in Iraq. These are tele-operated rather than autonomous machines, giving ground troops a way of extending their presence into dangerous areas without exposing themselves to fire….*

[* NOTE: You'll never guess WHICH Death Robot is pictured in the article.]

Now, ask yourself, if people are willing to build detention camps and tell businesses to use “deadly force” when martial law is declared, would THOSE people hesitate for one nanosecond in unleashing deadly killer robots? Battle tested and field certified killer death robots?

Every step in this stairway to hell has been paved with robotic obeisance to unseen “masters” in Washington D.C. And at some point, the “metaphor” of killer death robots becomes the reality of killer death robots, and we are faced with the epistemological conundrum as to just WHEN the paradigm shifts.

Rather than asking “Will the real Killer Death Robots please stand up?” let’s ask this, instead:

Will the real Killer Death Robots please stand down?


2009 tag: Just because we’ve changed administrati0ns doesn’t do much more than slow (maybe) the advance of this technology. But the question as to whether it will ultimately be used to deal with “civil unrest” remains.

In a nation divided over whether abortions are “murder” can’t we at least agree that the development of robotic killing machines is fundamentally immoral? That it’s not a business that we ought to be engaged in?



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17 responses to “Return of the Killer Death Robots!

  1. Hart,
    Are you bothering to read what I wrote or just pieces of it in either comment. I stated clearly in both that automatons were unquestionably a bad and wrong idea. In every case I referenced human controlled machines.

    WTF do you mean see things only in black and white? Since these things are not non-discriminatory mass weapons nor injury enhancing (BTW – the only reason dum-dums made that cut is because military thinkers prefer wounded enemy soldiers as a logistics drag – not because effective killing is contrary to their thinking)((further more high velocity small caliber light bullets are effectively dum-dums due to rapid destabilization on impact-ie M16)).

    It is not B&W to show you the effective value to non-combatants of a cool hand on controls vs a firearm in hand. You are welcome to your opinion of remote control versus mine – but accusing me of bs is going a bit far. I am by far one of the last people to find anything magical about weaponry. Think about it, I’ve probably fired more rounds in one month than you in your entire life – there is no magic. I stated what I thought you were missing and you essentially call me an asshole. Not exactly a discussion nor inviting to further engagement.

    • So I guess I should turn in my Boy Scout shooting merit badges? What kind of dumbass macho bullshit is this, Chuck?

      My gun is bigger than your gun? My dad took five deer in five years with five shots. Does that mean he’s a MUCH worse rifleman than you, since you bray about how much ammunition you’ve wasted per month?

      If you’re worried that I’m not reading you carefully, then try to make reasonable sort of sense, rather than lurching wildly from bizarre chain of reasoning to bizarre chain of reasoning.

      RE: automatic versus Nintendo killing? Distinction noted. Difference? Not.

  2. Re: what if Leonardo??

    Do what? What if the US had fought trench warfare with machine guns and long range self contained rifles, would WWI have been fought that way? Oh, wait, they did – the Civil War. 50 years of military thinking did it again. Maybe people would have learned something if we’d made war that horrible that soon, maybe not. But such ifs in one hand and poop in another and what you’ve got is bad smell. None of this deals with the simple fact that engineering wasn’t up to the task of a machine gun. Do you think Leonardo’s helicopter would fly even in this age of powerful light engines?

    Who the hell knows what a culture will do with imaginary inputs? What I can say is that 1000 yrs of culture and warfare result in today and looking at it across that span how we got here certainly holds together as a function of the relationship between warfare and culture.

    • Chuck:

      Now you’re responding with non-sequiturs.

      Leonardo’s helicopter never would have worked. His machine gun might have worked just fine. It was never manufactured because his patron believed that it was fundamentally immoral.

      I suggest that you take the time to find out about what you’re actually talking about:

      None of this deals with the simple fact that engineering wasn’t up to the task of a machine gun.

      Here is da Vinci’s drawing. (You’ll notice that he’s fundamentally invented the mechanism that was used for the Gatling gun, and is still used in the A-10 Warthog.)

      Had Ludovico the Moor decided to build it, Leonardo the Engineer had a better than even chance of making it work, but …

      You disagree? Great. Take it up with Leonardo. Obviously this has degenerated into an incipient flame war. I respect you, Chuck, but if you’re going to defend weapons of mass destruction because you’re caught up in some kind of second amendment fetish, I suggest you find other fora.

      You haven’t done your homework, and I fear that you’re now just shooting off your mouth at a greater rate than you brag that you shoot off your guns.

      But to say:

      Who the hell knows what a culture will do with imaginary inputs? What I can say is that 1000 yrs of culture and warfare result in today and looking at it across that span how we got here certainly holds together as a function of the relationship between warfare and culture.

      … is to slag off all discussion. You haven’t responded to a single point I’ve made, and continue to spin ever further into some terra incognita that I am ill-equipped and uninterested in exploring.

      You’re welcome to email me privately, but I think this thread is now closed.

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