Monday, 30 July 2012

Robotics Replacing Soldiers

Pilots and drivers are clearly on the wane in modern armies. How long will human infantry last? The Pentagon is pouring resources into robotic advancement. Like the way many industrial enterprises are going, the wars of the future will involve a network of integrated robots supported by a few highly-specialized human operators and technicians.

Check out the exoskeleton concept (YouTube):
'Ironman' Exoskeleton
High Power Robotic Exoskeleton
For a while, the technology doesn't threaten the soldier's position, and will enable him to do more. But technology that can leverage a human's capabilities usually ends up replacing the human worker. At the end of the second video we see prospective models for humanoid battle suits that could become autonomous someday: 'if you step out of it, it becomes a humanoid robot' we're told.

For the next decade or so, human infantry will be training the robots by machine learning how to fight and move in battlefield environments just by inhabiting them. Sooner or later, there will be a benefit to ejecting as many wobbly, vulnerable human internals as possible and allowing the robots to do the rampaging by themselves.

The future robots of war will have more accuracy, reaction speed and stamina than humans are capable of. 
They will also have less fear, indecision and remorse. Mobility is currently holding back their application,  which is why there is such a drive at the moment to overcome this problem. What they lack in general mobility, they currently make up for with incredible niche capabilities -- some robots now are good for leaping 30 foot fences, others can navigate small tubes. They are immune to radiation sickness, smoke inhalation and bio-toxins.

Warfare is not an industry I support anywhere in the world. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that redundancy of human infantry will have a sharp impact on inequality. Recruits are usually poor and unskilled, and a career in the army is often one of the few means for upward mobility for many families. A dramatic reduction of infantry soldiers would disproportionately impact blacks and Latinos in the U.S., demographics that are already hurting badly with the decimation in manufacturing jobs.

Also, these videos are interesting. They give you an idea of the breadth of recent experimentation going on unmanned surveillance and killing machines:
Two Decades of Unmanned Ground Vehicles Compilation

Unmannned Air Vehicles Compilation

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