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The Military Robotics Science

Carnegie Mellon Gets $14.4M to Build Robo-Tank 213

Posted by Zonk
from the watch-robo-cop-for-cues-on-what-not-to-do dept.
coondoggie passed us a NetworkWorld article, this one discussing new developments in the state of robotic warfare. Carnegie Melon is now hard at work on a tank set to join its brother, the already much-discussed Unmanned Areal Vehicle, on the modern battlefield "Ultimately unmanned ground vehicles would be outfitted with anti-tank or anti-aircraft missiles and anti-personnel weapons to make them lethal. Part of the new award budget is also slated to help the university prove that autonomous ground vehicles are feasible in future combat situations."
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Carnegie Mellon Gets $14.4M to Build Robo-Tank

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  • I'm asking a serious question. I've never understood what is and what isn't pork.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Feminist-Mom (816033)
      Depends on your definition. This is a DARPA contract, which is awarded based on if some guy likes you. If they suddenly don't like you, they pull the plug. But mostly this is pretty much a buddy network of people who have known each other for years, and they don't do that, except in cases of blatant incompetence (they took away Rodney Brooks money once I believe). I worked on a stair climbing robot project, which was pretty much a farce in every way. I'd really like to see a follow up article in 2-3 years
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've never understood what is and what isn't pork.

      It depends on which political party you belong to and whether elections are coming up.
    • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday December 01, 2007 @11:37PM (#21549205)
      Pork is in the eye of the beholder (c.f. "waste"). Seems like a decent project to me, and it's not like they awarded the contract to some unqualified fly-by-night outfit (despite what Stanford will tell you :) Tanks could be so much faster, lighter, and cheaper if not for the need to protect the soft, chewy middle. Make 'em 80% cheaper than the M1 and deploy 3x as many to make sure the job gets done.

      Also, "unmanned" is a bit of a misnomer; as with unmanned aerial vehicles, I'm sure they will be remotely "manned" - people will still decide whether to pull the trigger (and probably do most of the driving, at first).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by innerweb (721995)

      I think this is not pork. In the long term, manpower is very expensive, and paying people to put their lives in danger is much more expensive than having tech-jocks sitting at consoles controlling remote vehicles.

      Also, the cost of future tanks would be relatively less for similar performance if the tank did not have to safely carry a crew. They would weigh less, carry more armor, and be smaller. Smaller means easier to move around, and faster to deploy. Remote controlled means if a tank is killed, you

      • At some point in the future, this will lead to a driverless car, which will lead to more cost savings from the reduction and almost total elimination of human error accidents.

        The driverless car, which is meant to work in a cooperative environment (that is, cooperating with other driverless cars), seems like something that could actually be viable.

        This tank, on the other hand, is a preposterous idea.

        I will guarantee you that with US$10,000 worth of materials I can destroy any autonomous land vehicle creat

        • by Shihar (153932)
          The US will happily play "the my 1,000,000 dollars to your 10,000 dollars" game... because they will win. Money isn't the problem. Even if the US didn't have vast amounts of money on hand, the US has vast untapped reserves of money it could plow into if it desperately needed to in the form of raising their taxes which, by industrialized democracy standards, are somewhere between low and very low. The problem Americans have in fighting a war is that they get sick of troops dying very quickly, especially
        • I will guarantee you that with US$10,000 worth of materials I can destroy any autonomous land vehicle created in the next 20 years.

          Nobody is making an "autonomous" vehicle, really. They will be operated remotely. Likely by more than one person too (the gunner, the driver, etc.)

          As such they will only be harder to destroy than the current tanks are, and when they are hit, the "crew" will just switch to another one.

          I wish, Israel had these last year — instead they were getting bogged down having to

    • by shrikel (535309)
      No, pork is the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig. This is a mechanized weapons platform, and falls under the heading "robotics." There are other differences as well (for example: pork is sometimes called "the other white meat" while this particular robotic tank has almost certainly never been called that (at least until some wise-cracking slashdot poster proves me wrong)), but that first one is the major difference.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sam.haskins (1106069)
      Not really; pork is more like the 'bridge to nowhere' built in Alaska; projects that really only benefit the people in the home district of Senators and Representatives are usually what is called pork. At the very least, pork is something that the congresspeople can claim as a victory of their own come election time. This isn't pork, since it doesn't produce something that benefits any areas or politicians specifically. This is pretty much just an example of regular spending for defense research. Anyhow,
    • Projects like this are, more often than not, the result of a competitive proposal review process, although sometimes the solicitor can have in mind a particular research group when writing the solicitation.

      It's not pork because such money is not directly budgeted by Congress to go toward the specific research group or project.

    • All this is doing is getting huge military contracts to guys who are trying to fight World War Two with robots this time. They assume an enemy with centralized command and control that is run by intelligent, civilized men identical to themselves abet from a different empire. They assume vast armies and navies each in control of their own territory and able to control the populations within these territories, either civilian or military. They assume complete civilian support in their home country; a peopl
      • by BlueStrat (756137)
        All that is nonsense today. World War Two is over and so is the USA/Soviet war, the so-called 'cold war'.

        It seems that the Russians under Putin are becoming increasingly threatening to the West and to the USA in particular. There have been a number of incidents of late of Russia testing Western defenses, recently a number of Russian nuclear-capable bomber flights making incursions on NATO airspace and being intercepted by NATO fighters.

        http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30100-1280809,00.html [sky.com]

        And here:

        htt [washingtonpost.com]
  • Might I wager "aerial?"

    Maybe these damn typos are intentional by submitters. It can't be that hard at all, seeing how lax the editors are.
    • by chgros (690878)
      I don't think we're talking about a flying tank here. Areal sounds weird but it's a real word.
    • An areal vehicle, is this something that is independent of reality or possibly without reality? in the same way as amoral is without morals?

      Is this some kind or ultra stealth vehicle, influenced by the Hitchhikers Guide "Heart of Gold" spaceship? something which does and doesn't exist at the same time perhaps? wow, I knew you Americans were doing some crazy cutting edge stuff out in Area 51 but this is really something!

  • This Won't Work (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dukw_butter (805576) on Saturday December 01, 2007 @11:23PM (#21549119)
    This won't work for a variety of reasons. Mainly, though, it won't work because they picked one organization and handed them $14 million dollars. They should learn from NASA or other DARPA challenges and just open it up and say "create an autonomous tank and the winner gets $14 million dollars." That's a much better investment of the money, and it doesn't take a genius to figure this out. I predict this project goes the way of the ill-fated M247 Sargeant York [wikipedia.org].
    • Re:This Won't Work (Score:4, Informative)

      by PaintyThePirate (682047) on Saturday December 01, 2007 @11:41PM (#21549215) Homepage
      CMU got the $14 million because the Robotics Institute already has an autonomous tank, Crusher [cmu.edu]. The money was given specifically to create an updated version of it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by krel (588588)
      I imagine building a robotic tank is considerably more expensive than building a robotic car. CMU probably got the contract because they won the DARPA challenge.
      • by couchslug (175151)
        "I imagine building a robotic tank is considerably more expensive than building a robotic car."

        Not if the tracked vehicle is from the large number of M60 tanks and M113 APCs in reserve. They are available free to fire depts for wildland firefighting conversions too, BTW.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drgould (24404)
      just open it up and say "create an autonomous tank and the winner gets $14 million dollars."

      Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. They've had three "Challenges" now and they they still don't have a real autonomous vehicle. Just something that, on a good day, might finish a closed course.

      So what they've done is actually kinda smart. They've had the Urban Challenge [wikipedia.org] and identified the most promising teams, and now they're funding the first prize winner to develop a "robo-tank". Best of both worlds.

      Pe
    • $14.4M is nothing for this kind of thing. I wonder what it would have cost if it was given to GD or Locheed, or some other defense contractor.
    • by c6gunner (950153)
      Need I remind you that the internet was created by DARPA?

      And they certainly didn't say "create an open forum for all kind of idiots to voice their opinions, and you'll get 14 million dollars".

      On the other hand....you have a point. The current internet is probably a huge failure in the eyes of DARPA.....
  • by Locutus (9039) on Saturday December 01, 2007 @11:27PM (#21549141)
    http://www.mutantrobots.com/html/diesector.html [mutantrobots.com]

    And when it comes bearing down on a pickup truck full of bad guys, it should have a camera in the jaws to capture that "kodak moment". ;-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dunbal (464142)
      And when it comes bearing down on a pickup truck full of bad guys,

            We're using the US Army definition of "bad guy" which means "whoever was in the pickup truck", right?
      • We're using anybody's definition of "bad guy" which means "whoever was in the pickup truck", right?

        Try to grow up a bit and realize that human history has been full of "we just killed them, so they must be the baddies, else we wouldn't have killed them".

        • by Dunbal (464142)
          Try to grow up a bit and realize that human history has been full of "we just killed them, so they must be the baddies

                So this is a justification?

                See, the entire world had (and I do mean the past tense) such hopes that the "Great" Unites States was something better. But it's not.
        • Try to grow up a bit and realize that human history has been full of "we just killed them, so they must be the baddies, else we wouldn't have killed them".

          I used to think that way ... when I was a teenaged infantryman. A couple of years later, I went to war as a medic and saw the consequences of that kind of thinking up close and personal.
      • by Locutus (9039)
        especially if they're in a truck which looks like this: ;-)

        http://www.lilligren.com/Redneck/images/redneck_limo_4.jpg [lilligren.com]

        LoB
  • by bmo (77928)
    Areal as in "related to Ares the Greek God of Savage War"?

    Fitting typo.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ares [wikipedia.org]

    --
    BMO
  • Ok (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Saturday December 01, 2007 @11:36PM (#21549189)
    First, it's been obvious for a long time that robot tanks (and eventually robot infantry) are an inevitable development. It WILL happen, has to happen. Some of the posters will spout some meaningless garbage about how you can't trust a machine to decide whether or not to kill someone. Others will give some meaningless "rah rah" about how you can't hold ground without a 20 year old with a rifle standing there to keep it.

    In response to this : first, I predict for the foreseeable future none of these fighting machines will be allowed to shoot anyone without human authorization. Requiring a human operator to directly control the machine from a safe distance away is the plan.

    And second, a fleshy 20 year old is a bad way to hold ground. Robots have numerous advantages over humans. 1. Disposable. 2. Can take risks with a robot that a human wouldn't take. 3. Don't need supplies when not operating. Could deploy robots in hidden capsules located in the ground, using no fuel and minimal battery power. When something happens, months or years later, you activate the robot and guide it on it's mission. 4. A control center for an army of robots could have far more educated and experienced people manning it than the kind of people you can get to sign up for the Army and marines. Notably, you could have experienced translators, and input from high ranking officers.

    Finally, robots mass produced should be cheaper than human soldiers.

    Ultimately, the only thing holding this all back is technology. The KEY technology that made tele-operated robotic war-fighters impossible in the 1980s and early 1990s was that there was no way to get the kind of bandwidth needed over digital radios using un-jammable and unbreakable codes.

    Notably, the communication system needed for this type of war machine is a mesh network of high bandwidth radio links (each robot would need several megabits, mostly for data from the video cameras) using electronically steered antennae to filter out jamming and allow for thousands of robots sharing the same slice of spectrum. All data would need to be communicated using a one time encryption pad.

    As far as I know, the kind of radio hardware to do that was not possible before 2000, and using one time pad encryption means each bot would need to have many gigabytes of internal non-volatile storage. The tech wasn't possible in the past. It is today.

    Sure, in the 1980s and 1990s there were demos of related technology, and people laughed at it and said it could never replace human beings. It can.

    Note : I am in the US Army reserves as a medic.
    • Secondary effects (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ToastyKen (10169) on Saturday December 01, 2007 @11:59PM (#21549313) Homepage Journal
      I think what will be really interesting is the secondary effects of this stuff. Traditionally, the human cost has put a check on war-waging. Already, things like Predators and all our other high-tech warfare gadgets have imbalanced the soldier casualties when we wage war against a third world opponent. And they've responded by changing the rules of the game, mixing in with civilian populations, and making extensive use of roadside IEDs. (Now that I think about it, roadside IEDs are kind of like unmanned suicide bombers, turning the tables...)

      I fear that all these technologies that take soldiers away from the battlefield, in combination with bringing the battlefield into cities, will result in lower barriers to entry for starting wars (because the military probably worries more about protecting its own than they do about collateral damage), but also higher (and underreported) civilian casualties. I worry that by distancing our soldiers from the battlefield, by making them safer, we might actually increase the human toll.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        (Now that I think about it, roadside IEDs are kind of like unmanned suicide bombers, turning the tables...)

        That's actually quite backwards. Most people plant unmanned explosives. Suicide bombers are (as an exception) manned bombs--likewise, kamikazes are manned cruise missiles, devised by the Japanese when they couldn't develop a guidance system.

      • Question: What's the smallest leathal weapon... Micro-poison darts?

        When we go down the robotic warfare road we arrive at nano-warfare.

        Though the army likes big beefy guys, smaller targets are better.

        Next big war we'll have 18" crablike robots which walk on walls and have graphical camoflage, they do assasination style killings and wander through cities searching for heat sources.

        The war after that the biggest problem will be making sure they don't go outside the combat zone.

        This American administr
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      While I agree with the general gist of your post, that robotics are certainly going to be a big part of a "future" army, I have to make a few counter-points.

      Your "robot" needs a human to oversee it - a human who requires supplies whether or not the robot is "in combat".

      Your "robot" cannot make decisions on the fly like a human can. Therefore all data gathered by the robot needs far greater resources to determine if something in front of it is or isn't a "threat" than a grunt would. We see this today with UA
      • by rubycodez (864176)
        use of nuclear weapons costs tremendous political clout and risks at least economic harm in return by many nations. but an automated killing machine that kills friend or foe indiscriminately, already had those for more than half a century
    • I like the part where you delve into the communication-side of the equation. I would just like to add that they would probably have to use frequency hopping - usuing, again, a schema based on one-time pad.
    • by ToastyKen (10169)

      I wanted to add something to my last reply. I've noticed that, because I'm a programmer and whatnot, I tend to geek out about cool tech. I think the gov't does, too, and so it's easy to sell everyone, from higher-ups to civilians, on cool fast jets and all that stuff. And of course there are plenty of companies and college students with interests and incentives to research all that stuff.

      There's less incentive to attempt social "weapons", and it's much less glamorous. As that recent Wired article poin

    • first, I predict for the foreseeable future none of these fighting machines will be allowed to shoot anyone without human authorization.

      There's considerable interest in systems that shoot back, really fast. The U.S. Army has had counter-battery fire systems [fas.org] for decades, but they've been used against larger indirect-fire weapons. The Army would like to downsize this into a "use a gun, die within seconds" capability, something that could detect hostile gunfire and land indirect fire on the shooter faster

    • I'm surprised you specify one-time-pads for encrypting communications. They are completely unbreakable with good random pads that are only used once, but they must be unique for each machine and the station it communicates with. Key management is really hard.

      I would hazard a guess that they would use other forms of encryption. If the communication is two way, then a key exchange protocol used to derive symmetric session keys would seem more useful, to my non-military eyes. If the communication is only o
      • You're right. I just wanted to specify something that avoids any chance of the obvious problem : enemy either jams the communications, making all the robots stop working, or the worst possible problem : they crack the codes and send your own robots after you.

        There's a way to efficiently generate the terrabytes of pure random data.
    • by ImpTech (549794)

      Notably, the communication system needed for this type of war machine is a mesh network of high bandwidth radio links (each robot would need several megabits, mostly for data from the video cameras) using electronically steered antennae to filter out jamming and allow for thousands of robots sharing the same slice of spectrum. All data would need to be communicated using a one time encryption pad.

      Radio spectrum being finite as it is, this is still (and will probably always be) basically impossible. You simply can't deliver high bandwidth to a large number of robots over radio. You need robots that use less bandwidth, and are therefore more autonomous, or you need a non-RF communication mechanism.

  • No. Read old Keith Laumer stories.
  • I'm all for expending steel instead of lives. The only misgiving I would have at all is domestic uses of these technologies. Not SWAT or special response situations but more general use. At home I believe the final barrier to misuse is a real human being who says: "You know what? I'm not going to pull the f*cking trigger.". Without this as the ultimate safe-guard at home then it entertains the very real possibility of a hostile hijacking of liberties.
  • by jkua (1159581) on Sunday December 02, 2007 @12:24AM (#21549449)

    The reason CMU got this funding is primarily due to the fact that we built Crusher (I'm a grad student at the Robotics Institute), for which some of this funding is directed to upgrade. Crusher is, hands-down, the biggest beast of a robot I've ever seen. It's a six wheeled, 6.5 ton, autonomous vehicle - this thing can drive up 4 foot (1.2 meter) steps, has 30 inches (76 cm) of suspension travel, and can carry 8000 lbs of payload. There isn't much that this thing can't handle.

    If you have never seen Crusher in action, you've got to see it to believe it. There's a bunch of videos here: http://www.rec.ri.cmu.edu/projects/crusher/videos/index.htm [cmu.edu].

    The quote in the original post is a little misleading - I don't really think NREC is going to be working on mounting weapons on the new vehicle. Primarily they're continuing development on autonomous mobility - can it properly plan and quickly execute a good route to get from point A to point B over rough terrain. Check out the CMU press release [cmu.edu] for a little more detail on the grant.

    • The quote in the original post is a little misleading - I don't really think NREC is going to be working on mounting weapons on the new vehicle. Primarily they're continuing development on autonomous mobility - can it properly plan and quickly execute a good route to get from point A to point B over rough terrain.

      So to summarize your point, "I don't make robots that will kill people. I'm just working on the early unarmed prototype of robots that will kill people!"

      People can put your research to good or

  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Sunday December 02, 2007 @12:38AM (#21549501) Journal
    Maybe that is what they're out to prove, but I see two major combat redundancies here, and I'm not even searching hard. And before I typed them out, I answered myself. I'll post this though because I think it will be interesting. A) If you can get a laser reading on anything with GPS, you can annihilate it via any number of GPS integrated missiles, and I'm sure the autonomous flying vehicle can do an air strike on the point too. So why not lower the lethality of the tank, and just use it more as a scout vehicle that can send valuable visual information as well as paint a target with GPS. B) You don't need much armor on the tank except to protect its engine/treads/ammunition and sensors. This thing's primary goal isn't going to be protecting lifeforms inside even though the first tank will probably be a lot like a conventional tank... For two reasons: Its easy to start with, and having a big ass tank in your lab is unfortunately worth cool points. PS: I was on the team for the first red team racing car, but all they had me do was plot some GPS points. PSS: I thought the robotic vehicle was 5-20 years in the future, not 1. LOL. PSSS: I think the ultimate combat vehicle for modern warfare that I could imagine would be a satellite up link spy tank. It could drop surveillance pods at convenient places to monitor if enemies are moving there. It would also have a few anti bomb robots it could deploy to take out things like IEDs, and to advance on the opponent where you wouldn't want to risk the whole tank. Of course, I don't think this vehicle ever should be autonomous except for uploading video and sensor information. Lets take it one step at a time, and have people safely piloting these things from a distance before jumping into the land of ED209.
  • The big question here seems to be - will (eventually) having a cheap, powerful unmanned military force make the United States much more likely to use it? Or will this (potentially) massive increase in force strength serve as a deterrent?

    Unfortunately, I think it will likely be the former.
  • by SEWilco (27983) on Sunday December 02, 2007 @12:42AM (#21549531) Journal
    What's the big deal? I have three robot tanks already: one is called "water heater" and another "water softener"; in my car my "gas tank" tells me when I need to connect it to the tank-fed robots at a station. What's so special about yet another robot tank?
  • Morality (Score:5, Funny)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday December 02, 2007 @12:45AM (#21549553)
    How do you decide when it's good to place better weapons in your President's hands vs. when it's not good?

    If only the U.S. had several, distinct militaries:
    a) the Department of Defense (only functions in or near U.S. borders)
    b) the Department of Securing Cheap Oil
    c) the Department of Get Them Before They Get Us.
    d) the Department of Team America, World Police.

    Unfortunately, when researchers take DoD money, or soldiers enlist, they have no choice but to support all of a - d. Painful dilemma.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Ah, but we do:

      a) the Department of Defense (only functions in or near U.S. borders)
              Department of Homeland Security
      b) the Department of Securing Cheap Oil
              Department of Defense
      c) the Department of Get Them Before They Get Us.
              CIA
      d) the Department of Team America, World Police.
              FBI

    • Is there a mod +1: Sad But True?
  • by rufusdufus (450462) on Sunday December 02, 2007 @12:57AM (#21549599)
    The world does not need more effective ways to kill people. It is unethical to build automatic tanks; they will be used by psychopaths for selfish purposes. You do not need to help them do this.
    Its bound to happen anyway you say? You are bound to die someday too; but it doesn't have to be today.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ductonius (705942)
      The world does not need more effective ways to kill people.

      We should be so lucky to have enemies that agree with you.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rufusdufus (450462)
        The world does not need more effective ways to kill people.
        We should be so lucky to have enemies that agree with you.


        This is a really stupid position. The 'enemy' will surely copy your technology. America built the bomb, and its 'enemies' had their own in a matter of months.

        Moreover, it does not take into account the limitations of human group identificaton (the monkeysphere). Humans have a limited memory so they group people into archetypes. When they do this, they place some in the 'us' category, and
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ScrewMaster (602015)
          The 'enemy' will surely copy your technology. America built the bomb, and its 'enemies' had their own in a matter of months.

          That's far too simplistic a view and factually incorrect: the Russians did not build their first atom bomb in months. As it happens, the first successful Russian fission weapon was based upon the American Fatman device dropped on Japan, whose design the Russians acquired through espionage. Even with the advantage conferred by the stolen design, this First Lightning bomb wasn't test-
  • Well I, for one, welcome our new higher education engineering overlords!

    I remind them that the current administration might make excellent test subjects for the armored autonomous vehicle's weapons systems.
  • by SlowGenius (231663) on Sunday December 02, 2007 @01:56AM (#21549845) Homepage
    I wonder why it is that nobody stops to think of what terrorism is: a tool of the powerless. If you've got a superior kick-ass military, there's generally no need to resort to terrorism: you do what you want, and if somebody resists, you can blow them away. If you don't have that kind of force at your disposal, you start to look for less direct options to express your opinions than an all-out military confrontation.

    Another thing that breeds terrorism is a sense of being wronged by a powerful oppressor, particularly when you're desparate and helpless. If your life isn't worth living, you're probably a lot more willing to give it up in the cause of revenge.

    Devices like robotanks that COMPLETELY remove US soldiers from danger will have the inevitable side-effect of making our enemies immediately think: Here we are watching our families and friends getting killed by machines from the USA, but there are no enemy soldiers to fight. Maybe they're too cowardly. So... who are our enemies, really? These machines? Of course not... they're only tools, being operated by CIA agents and military contractors and the like somewhere else, probably over in the US. Hmm... could it be.... US... civilians?

    The payback exacted by people who lose everything they have worth living for and are left only with such thoughts may be many years in coming, but it *will* be both horrible and inevitable. And of course we'll react accordingly when it does. It's bad enough when armies go at it in the name of 'accomplishing national objectives'. But once entire civilian populations learn to truly hate each other, war is no longer enough. At that point, only genocide will suffice.

    • I think you miss the point of this machine. Robotic tanks and tanks general are intended to be used in conventional warfare where you are facing an organized army, and where your objective is to destroy that enemy force. Tanks are more or less useless when you have won the war and you are policing the population, also known as occupation.

      In occupation you are policing and controlling the population, or if you are into total war you continue war against civil population until they are submissive to the new

    • Personally I'm coming closer and closer to making the conclusion that if a democracy goes to war against you, civilians are legitimate targets. At least anyone of voting age. We are collectively responsible for allowing our governments to go to war if we quietly accept an elected government to attack without doing more than waiting for the next time we can cast a vote.

      The military are "just" following orders, and while they have a responsibility to refuse unlawful orders, ultimately with the way modern ar

      • the first thing I'd do would be to decide to ignore parts of the Geneva conventions

        ...especially if your technologically superior adversary had already chosen to ignore parts of the Geneva convention (oh, say, on torture). You don't even have to sacrifice the moral high ground.

  • "Autonomous ground vehicles aren't ready for deployment yet."
    Well, the way I see it is these things NEVER will be ready until we just go ahead and build them to work out the kinks.
    Take a look at WW2 and all the weapons which entered the battlefield which were totally unproven. Hell some were even only going to work in theory! The point is, you can not progress unless you put it out there.

    Plus, I don't know how many of your fly RC planes, but I do a little and I can tell you...that stuff is not easy at all.
  • by drDugan (219551) on Sunday December 02, 2007 @04:05AM (#21550335) Homepage
    How much more do humans need to innovate on ways to kill each other?

    The more efficient the methods, the more distant the human cost - all lead to more killing and more government control, not less. How much more war do we need? Maybe when all the "bad" people are killed then the "good" ones left can get around to creating peace. The direct fruits of this research are more effective killing machines, really useful only in killing other humans. There may be other upsides to autonomous vehicles, but that is not what DARPA is about.

    When does the global population start to work together to create a world that is peaceful? Will it ever happen? Will it happen in our lifetime? Why are people not pushing THESE questions?

    I don't want my grandkids living in a world with autonomous machines toting guns and killing people. That's completely absurd - yet here we are, building it! What we have now is bad enough.

    The US has shown that no rules of law, no standards of ethics will hold up against the tyranny of powerful people willing to break them. Why would anyone want governments to wield even more power over people? Guess what - the right to form a militia and protect yourself against government aggression doesn't mean shit when the central authority uses unmanned tanks against you because you don't fall in line, pay your taxes, work your job, and stay in your place. Better pray to god^H^H^H er. . . the president that she lets you live the life you want. No person is going to falter, no one is going to ask, "hey does this make sense?" when the servo and an AI script decide when you are a threat because you shot at the machine.

    Most of the discussion on this list is sickening to me. People here are talking about killing people like sweeping floors or serving coffee - completely abstracted from the horror that a real war would be. Just wait until the Chinese start making robots to sweep through the street, packing heat and rounding up US-ians for internment camps. Maybe THEN people will finally say, "Hey, maybe we should work on making peace instead of war!" All the while you're maching down to a camp.

    Some of these questions I ask rhetorically, but I'm serious with the point. No more wars. We're had enough.

    • by turgid (580780)

      Things are only going to get worse before they get better. GW wants to take out Iran next, so this kind of robotic weapons system will come in handy.

      East and West are squaring up against each other and the bigots and Xenophobes on each side are falling for it. Muhammad the teddy bear?

      I'm not looking forward to the last 30-40 years of my life.

      Forget going back to the Moon and on to Mars, we'll all go up in smoke.

    • by ricegf (1059658)

      No more wars. We're had enough.

      Virtually everyone agrees with this point. Everyone is "working for peace", at least in public. But do you get peace by unilateral disarmament? Or by building better weapons than your likely opponents, so that the rational ones (at least) won't attack you?

      As much as I hate war (and I grew up in an area where the scars of a lost war were very evident on both humans and material), I'll bet on better weapons to keep my family safe.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume (22995)
      We are in the midst of it.

      http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/pinker07/pinker07_index.html [edge.org]

      (and all technology has nefarious applications)
  • Obviously it would be difficult to deploy robots controlled by AI, but why aren't there more remote controlled robots on the battlefield?

    It seems like it would be trivial to put together a small armored machine on treads with a machine gun and control it wirelessly from a secure location nearby. Since you could have such a device roll into situations that would be dangerous or suicidal to humans without hesitation, it seems like it would be pretty handy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by joib (70841)
      Such as the Talon [news.com]?
    • It seems like it would be trivial to put together a small armored machine on treads with a machine gun and control it wirelessly from a secure location nearby. Since you could have such a device roll into situations that would be dangerous or suicidal to humans without hesitation, it seems like it would be pretty handy.

      Until someone digs a pit in the road, and your machine falls into it. Then they disassemble and reprogram it and send it back to your "secure location".

      It is far faster and cheaper to inve

  • ...welcome our SkyNet overlords
  • Let's hope that they will be able to secure the access to these things.

    On the rare occassions that people have gone on the rampage with tanks and stuff, the results have been dramatic.
    If I recall correctly, after one such tank theft incident, the local comander explained why it was so 'easy' to steal a tank, "If you're under attack, you don't want to be looking for the ignition keys". Fair point.

    So, these fighting vehicles will have to be easy to use, to be useful. Lets hope that does not also make them e
  • Okay, I'm confused. Are we Terran or Protoss?

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