Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Robot Overlord Watch and Grand Theft Auto

Robots ready to support soldiers on the battlefield

Intelligent armed vehicles that use GPS, laser and heat-recognition technology are close to being deployed in hotspots

The commander pulls out what looks like a PlayStation gamepad and the Mule is sent forward.

It presents a tougher challenge than the typical human soldier. The Mule can fire Javelin anti-tank missiles and has a turret-mounted machine gun, in addition to a digital "eyeball" with laser and heat-recognising target acquisition systems for aiming its weaponry. It is semi-autonomous, using GPS to navigate and localised perception to avoid trees and buildings. Its six wheels are on pneumatic legs, enabling it to climb over cars and barriers. Within minutes, the formerly deadly intersection is secure.

Most people are concerned that Grand Theft Auto desensitizes kids to violence in the real world. I don't worry so much about that. What I worry about is the Army taking these twitchy gamers, putting them in front of consoles, and not telling them that on the other end of the game they are playing are real, live human beings that they are killing. Basically, The Ender's Game scenario but not against bugs.

The controls for an unmanned fighter plane will be indistinguishable from a video game. Control of some robotic soldier will probably as well. I worry that the densenitivity to video game violence will be used to create real, but remote destruction rather than gamers going crazy and causing problems in the real world directly.

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