By Seth Reed
The first form of a military robot was used in World War II. A remote-controlled demolition vehicle known as the Goliath tracked mine, carried explosives intended for destroying tanks or demolitions of bridges and buildings. Contrary to its name, the Goliath tracked mine was not very big. Looking like a little tank, it came in at about a foot tall, two feet, and four feet in length (Military Robots). Ever since World War II, we have been able to manipulate and advance this technology to the point where artificial intelligence can make some decisions, and have started to replace humans in the battlefield. Even though artificial intelligence has become very useful, it still relies on humans to give it commands. Many movies that have portrayed human-like robots show them as the end of mankind. Even though these virtual realities feel like they are on some distant planet very far away from Earth, these films are becoming less futuristic and becoming a reality that brings up the question: Will the use of robotics and artificial intelligence do more harm than good?
Full functioning robots have only been capable in movies. Films like Star Wars and Wall-E have portrayed artificial intelligence as lovable characters like C-3PO, R2-D2, and Wall-E, who are capable of thinking and acting like humans. These characters make people believe that artificial intelligence would ultimately improve their life. However, other films such as Terminator and Transformers inspire fear in viewer. These films show the possible chaos and destruction robots could cause. C-3PO lovers may rethink their opinion of artificial intelligence when they see robots trying to destroy mankind. Even though modern day artificial intelligence is not yet at the point of thinking for itself, we are quickly reaching the day when they can. These clips from Transformers will help you see the madness that could ensue when we reach the point where robots can think for themselves.
Robotics and artificial intelligence are being increasingly used in the military, taking places of soldiers, making it safer and more convenient. There are robots that can carry cargo, do search and rescue missions, fly, shoot, and even go underwater. Boston Dynamics, a company who builds advanced robots like BigDog, develops prototypes that are eventually used in the U.S. Armed Forces. BigDog is a robot that “… has four legs like a dog and is made to carry heavy loads and can navigate tough-terrain by walking, running, and climbing. BigDog runs at 4 mph, climbs slopes up to 35 degrees, walks across rubble, climbs muddy hiking trails, walks in snow and water, and carries 340 lb load” (Boston Dynamics). This excerpt shows how BigDog might be useful. It can carry heavy loads so human troops would be able to move more quickly and efficiently. The clip below shows the BigDog in action.
A controversial robot that is being used are drones. Drones like the RQ-1 Predator are aerial vehicles that can either be remote controlled or fly automatically based on a programmed plan. The UAV, a site with information on drones say, “These vehicles main purpose is to perform intelligence and surveillance missions but have been expanded to be a way of aerial defense and combat enemies on either ground or air” (The UAV). This quote shows the main purpose of a drone, but if drones were able to think for themselves, they could destroy whole towns of innocent people. Allowing one or two people to control the power and usage of drones could be very detrimental as well. In the wrong hands, acts of terrorism would be easier and much more destructive. Any American citizen can buy one. You could live in Harrisonburg and attack a village in the Middle East. How scary is that? This video clip will help show you the colossal amount of damage a drone can cause.
All of these advances sound good because it can replace a soldier, saving those lives and perform better than a human. Military Robots, a site specializing in military robots says, “These robots are sturdier and more capable of withstanding damage than humans” (Military Robots). If one robot is destroyed, we can make another to take its place with no harm done. Robots like BigDog show us how they can be useful and beneficial to our troops.
Unfortunately for us, these advances could end up functioning similarly to artificial intelligence seen on the screen. Like the movies, robots in real life have started to become self-sustaining and have started to have their own thoughts. “Experts have also jotted that some robots have acquired several forms of semi-autonomy, which includes the ability to find power sources on their own and the ability to select target to attack independently” (Military Robots). This semi-autonomous feature combined with an armed robot whose main function is shoot people could end badly. A reporter from the New York Times say “Researchers agree that robots that can kill autonomously are either here or will be soon” (Markoff). We have seen that some robots such as drones are extremely dangerous and with the advancement of technology, drones and other robots designed to kill could be our downfall.
We are not yet quite at the stage that movies such as Terminator are at but are quickly approaching artificial intelligence that will be totally self-sustaining. We will one day have to live with robots that increasingly human-like behavior. This could prove to be very bad for humans. The wrong people could exploit this technology and get information from any computer source or just cause total chaos. Militaries could abuse this power to destroy vast amounts of people in less time. We are not at the point where robots could take over, but in the future (that is probably closer than we think), this could happen:
Markoff, John. “Scientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man.” New York Times, 25 July 2009. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/science/26robot.html?_r=0>.
“Military Robots – Detailed Information On Robots Used In Military.” Military Robots – Detailed Information On Robots Used In Military. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.
“The UAV – The Future Of The Sky.” The UAV. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.
“Boston Dynamics: Dedicated to the Science and Art of How Things Move.” Boston Dynamics: Dedicated to the Science and Art of How Things Move. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <http://www.bostondynamics.com/robot_bigdog.html>.
“TubeChop – 2029 A.D. | Terminator 2: Judgment Day | Classic Clips (00:38).” TubeChop. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <http://www.tubechop.com/watch/1087387>.
“TubeChop – BigDog Evolution (00:49).” TubeChop. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <http://www.tubechop.com/watch/1087427>.
“TubeChop – Scerec – Transformers 2 – Action Scenes (01:38).” TubeChop. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <http://www.tubechop.com/watch/1087453>.
“TubeChop – Predator Drones (01:07).” TubeChop. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <http://www.tubechop.com/watch/1135269>.