Military robots to come

The idea of a robot walking your dog or washing your windows might be appealing, but it’s still far fetched. However, a robotic army is not. But don’t expect those Hollywood-created versions of robotic soldiers, said Howard Smith. Those aren’t necessarily the kind the military is creating.

According to Smith, author of the new book “I, robot” and MIT-trained engineer and artificial intelligence expert, the bulk of funding for artificial intelligence research is not directed toward consumers. Instead, the focus is on developing new weapons and tools for the military.

He goes on to say that advancements in robotics are changing the shape of the U. S. armed forces – and other armies around the world. More than 6,000 robots are already used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and astronomical amounts of money are being funneled into artificial intelligence research.

The military currently uses Predator aircraft drones and bomb-defusing robots – both of which have undoubtedly saved countless lives of U.S. troops. While definite improvements over military weapons of yesteryear, these robots still require a human at the controls.

“But the latest advancements in military robotics and artificial intelligence are aimed at cutting out the middleman, i.e. removing the human factor from the decision making. That’s right, the military is creating weapons that will ultimately ‘decide’ whether to fire weapons. And that dramatically raises the stakes for the military and for civilians,” Smith said.

But one has to look at the drawbacks, such as how to equip a robot with a conscience and how will it distinguish between an armed enemy and a curious child. These are serious questions that must be addressed before these autonomous robots become standard gear for the military.

The United States is not alone in its quest for robotic weapons. Other nations, such as China, Israel and Russia reportedly are developing unmanned military robotics. This high-tech arms race has many artificial intelligence experts wondering if any international agreement will be created to draft a code of ethics for use of robotic weapons.

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