Wednesday, June 24, 2009

For the Love of a Robot - why there won't be a robot takeover

These kind of accounts are very common, and actually made me get a bit teary when I first encountered them. I found them very touching.

Whilst stories like this are also very common with civilian robots (60% of Roomba owners name them, a third take them on holiday and a substantial number actually clean the floor before the robot to make it's life easier!), its the robot companions in war where the high emotion and fraught nature of the situation really brings it home.

I think they speak for themselves:

'The EOD soldier carried a box into the robot repair facility at Camp Victory, Iraq. "Can you fix it?" he asked, with tears welling in his eyes. Inside the box was a pile of broken parts. It was the remains of "Scooby-Doo," the team's PackBot, which had been blown up by an IED.

' "please fix Scooby Doo because he saved my life," '

'...the continued evolution of human-robot interaction is leading many robot operators to do things like "award" 'battlefield promotions' and 'Purple Hearts' [medals] to their machines...One unit in the 737th Ordnance Company, for instance, called their EOD bot Sgt.Talon; Sgt. Talon, in fact, got promoted to Staff Sergeant and received three Purple Hearts.'

'When one robot was knocked out of action in Iraq, an EOD soldier ran fifty meters, all the while being shot at by enemy machne gun, to "rescue it" '.

'Soldiers who work with damaged robots notice these attachments the most. Jose Ferreira descrived working at the repair yard in Baghdad as less like being a mechanic in a garage and more like being a doctor in an emergency room. "I wish you all could be here and experience the satisfaction in knowing you saved someone's life today. I wish you could see the fear in their eyes when they first walk in knowing that they could walk out with no robot. I wish you could see the smiles and feel the hugs and handshakes after they leave our shop knowing that their 'little Timmy' is ALIVE. Alive and well to go down range one more time." '

'It would walk through a minefield, intentionally stepping on any land mines that it found with one of its feet. Then it would right itself and crawl on, blowing up land mines until it was literally down to the last leg. When the system was put through military tests, it worked just as designed, but the army colonel in charge "blew a fuse"...Describing the tests as "inhuman," the officer ordered them be stopped. "The Colonel could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred, and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg." '

From Wallach and Allen's 'Moral Machines' and Peter W. Singer's 'Wired for War'


Dick Puddlecote said...

Crikey! Full-blown robophilia can't be far away then.

Gandhi said...

The Terminator has been in charge for a while now, as revealed by Dan Hannan... if ONLY he'd walk through a mine field for us!

Cameron: based on a simple intercom device, control shared amongst the entire parliamentary Conservative Party.

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