Pentagon requests robot packs to hunt humans

New Scientist reports on a new Pentagon request to develop a pack of robots “to search for and detect a non-cooperative human”.

I am a strong believer in the fact that everyone who takes a course in artificial intelligence should be made to watch post-apocalyptic film The Terminator as a stark warning, in the same way that everyone who works with MRI scanners is made to watch serious videos about ‘what can go tragically wrong and how you can prevent it’.

I also suspect though, that the students who come out of those lectures rooting for the robots are recruited into military research teams.

From the Pentagon document:

Typical robots for this type of activity are expected to weigh less than 100 Kg and the team would have three to five robots.

PHASE I: Develop the system design and determine the required capabilities of the platforms and sensors. Perform initial feasibility experiments, either in simulation or with existing hardware. Documentation of design tradeoffs and feasibility analysis shall be required in the final report.

PHASE II: Implement the software and hardware into a sensor package, integrate the package with a generic mobile robot, and demonstrate the system‚Äôs performance in a suitable indoor environment. Deliverables shall include the prototype system and a final report, which shall contain documentation of all activities in this project and a user’s guide and technical specifications for the prototype system.

PHASE III: Robots that can intelligently and autonomously search for objects have potential commercialization within search and rescue, fire fighting, reconnaissance, and automated biological, chemical and radiation sensing with mobile platforms.

PHASE IV: Die puny humans die!

PHASE V: To the bunkers! Run for your lives! Arggghhhhh!

PHASE VI: Sarah Connor, we’re going to send you back in time to make a movie to warn everybody about the coming annihilation of the human race. Recruit a political leader so people will take it seriously – like Governor Schwarzenegger, for example.

Earlier this year, Israel announced that they want to develop an AI-controlled missile system that “could take over completely” from humans. If you’re still chucking, the UK military satellite system is called Skynet.

Link to NewSci on Pentagon opening Pandora’s box.
Link to Pentagon solicitation request.

2 Comments

  1. Posted October 23, 2008 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Given the state of AI technology, I wouldn’t be too worried yet. However, I think these types of stories should make people reevaluate where we place emphasis in our culture. I fear that projects such as this will indeed attract talented people due to secure funding and rewarding technical challenges.
    Unfortunately, many of these people do not stop to consider the long term impact of their work. Why should they? We place little emphasis on the type of education that would provide this context such as history, philosophy and the arts. Little incentive exists for noble pursuits.
    On the positive side, computers are still really dumb and, for all foreseeable future, these robots will be much easier to mess with than people. I envision a future more like Robocop, than the terminator where the robots barely work due to politics and corporate wars. Not to mention, the field of AI isn’t exactly progressing by leaps and bounds.

  2. Mark(p.s.)
    Posted October 27, 2008 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    You forgot another robot of the future. The robot spiders in the film Minority Report. In the film, the police enter an apartment building and use the robot spiders to quickly identify all the occupants.


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