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Old 19 Feb 06, 18:39
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The Pros And Cons of Robots

There has been some discussion of the trend towards the "robot" battlefield. My purpose with this thread is to discuss the pros and cons of such a move on several levels, from their practicality to their ethical and perhaps societal impact.

First, we need to all understand and agree that the machines in use and in testing are not "robots", but rather unmanned, remotely operated machines. There is a big difference. With that in mind, here are my immediate thoughts and opinions:

1. We seem perhaps overly concerned about comabt deaths in our present society.

Pro: Regardless of why we are so concerned, robotic devices would certainly lessen the death toll.

Con: Removing any negative impact gives an undeserved moral approval to warfare. "Why not invade? It won't cost us anything?" We as individuals and as citizens of our nation need to be aware of the true cost of such actions.

2. Robots perform better than people on today's battlefields.

Pro: Robots can certainly do some things that humans cannot, suc as long-loiter aerial recon missions, ground surveillance under adverse light and weather conditions, bomb disposal, more rapid movement, etc.

Con: A remotely operated vehicle is merely an extension of a human operator, a combination that will never match the intuitive ability of a trained human on-site. In fact, such remoteness may "take the edge" of the situation and give the operator a false impression, and although machines can utilize sensors far more capable than the human eye, nothing beats human intuition when surveying a scene, or matches human peripheral vision.

3. Robots have better survivability.

Pros: A real plus if true.

Con: Personally, I don't believe it. The UAV's used for reconaissance and missile firings do well because they fly unapposed. I seriously doubt their ability to survive a firefight, particularly given the lag between "pilot" and vehicle. The robotic fighting units I have seen have serious weaknesses and drawbacks, such as vision systems, lack of adequate armor, limited-to-no true peripheral vision and inability to go where humans can go.

A small tracked vehicle which carries a machine gun seems ideal for reconning a built-up area, but the TV sensors are very vulnerable to small arms fire or grenades, as is the vehicle itself. further, a human can dive over a wall, climb through a window or up onto a roof and a host of other evasive moves not available to robots, and enemies on upper stories and roofs would pose an extreme danger to low-on-the-ground robot combat units.

The only robotic vehicle than can fight and perform as an MBT is an MBT. Anything less is a target.

4. Robot fighters and bombers are the Air Force dream of the future.

Pros: The Air Force would love to fly over enemy territory without the risk of losing a crewman.

Unmanned aircraft can perform far outside the 8-9 G erformance envelope that limits manned aircraft.

Cons: The true test of remote combat aircraft will have to take place in an intensive hostile ECM environment filled withostile fighters and missiles. The manueverability of such aircraft will likely be more than offset by the lack of situational awareness of the remote operator and the difficulty of maintaining a viable radio link. More aircraft might be lost because remote operators have no feel for the aircraft and must rely on warning instuments and idiot lights to assess damage, perhaps not reacting to a critical or impending systems failure until too late.

Care must be taken not to put all operators in a central location, thus making a fleet of bombers or squadrons of fighters vulnerable by knocking out the command center.

Invulnerability Syndrome: Becaue it isn't really "you", operators may feel that they are invulnerable, thus needlessly incurring losses of expensive equipment.

5. Robots eliminate worries about POW's, especially female ones.

Pros: true.

Cons: consider the loss of technology when such a sophisticated device is recovered, and they will be recovered.

My final thought for the moment is that to much distancing and disassociation from the realities of war can easily lead to the danger of war becoming totally hands-off, without emotional and spiritual impact and therefore more acceptable. Destroying a city full of living people is much more significant if you do it yourself, rather than simp0ly push a button from a thousand miles away. It's a good idea to remember at all times that you are not merely destroying tanks, buildings, power stations or bunkers, but also every living thing in and around them. It keeps things from getting out of hand.

And finally, how many generals per hundred robots will the Pentagon really need?
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  #2  
Old 20 Feb 06, 01:10
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Good idea for a thread! Here are a few thoughts before bed...

Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
1. We seem perhaps overly concerned about comabt deaths in our present society.

Pro: Regardless of why we are so concerned, robotic devices would certainly lessen the death toll.

Con: Removing any negative impact gives an undeserved moral approval to warfare. "Why not invade? It won't cost us anything?" We as individuals and as citizens of our nation need to be aware of the true cost of such actions.
I don’t see this as an issue. Going into Iraq for the second time, we knew casualties would be relatively light (barring any unconventional warfare), and yet the amount of uproar from the civilian sector (and from foreign nations) was damn near unprecedented.

Even though Iraq has been a remarkable success when you look at total lives lost, the uproar continues to this day. Mainly over what the left perceives to be happening to the Iraqi population. Hell, we can’t even kill the bad guys without causing an uproar (see the Iraq getting killed in the Mosque and the Apache shooting up the three Iraqis in a field).


Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
2. Robots perform better than people on today's battlefields.

Pro: Robots can certainly do some things that humans cannot, suc as long-loiter aerial recon missions, ground surveillance under adverse light and weather conditions, bomb disposal, more rapid movement, etc.

Con: A remotely operated vehicle is merely an extension of a human operator, a combination that will never match the intuitive ability of a trained human on-site. In fact, such remoteness may "take the edge" of the situation and give the operator a false impression, and although machines can utilize sensors far more capable than the human eye, nothing beats human intuition when surveying a scene, or matches human peripheral vision.

I agree that human intuition is (at least for the foreseeable future) irreplaceable. However, who needs peripheral vision when you’ve got a 360 degree view of the battlefield. The ability to mount cameras and sensors of all types onto a robotic platform and display the information to an operator in a customizable format is probably worth quite a bit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
3. Robots have better survivability.

Pros: A real plus if true.

Con: Personally, I don't believe it. The UAV's used for reconaissance and missile firings do well because they fly unapposed. I seriously doubt their ability to survive a firefight, particularly given the lag between "pilot" and vehicle. The robotic fighting units I have seen have serious weaknesses and drawbacks, such as vision systems, lack of adequate armor, limited-to-no true peripheral vision and inability to go where humans can go.

A small tracked vehicle which carries a machine gun seems ideal for reconning a built-up area, but the TV sensors are very vulnerable to small arms fire or grenades, as is the vehicle itself. further, a human can dive over a wall, climb through a window or up onto a roof and a host of other evasive moves not available to robots, and enemies on upper stories and roofs would pose an extreme danger to low-on-the-ground robot combat units.
As for aircraft, I don’t see how there could be a difference in terms of durability. A UAV is going to be just as susceptible to a SAM as a piloted aircraft. A piece of shrapnel in the intake is going to foul up the aircraft either way.

When talking about “robots” on the ground, though, I think it’s a different story. Humans might be able to avoid the injuries and damage more effectively, but a gunshot wound to a human, regardless of where it is at, is a serious problem. A gunshot wound to a robot can often be a non-issue. Plus, dealing with shock is no longer necessary when it’s a robot getting injured.


Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
4. Robot fighters and bombers are the Air Force dream of the future.

Pros: The Air Force would love to fly over enemy territory without the risk of losing a crewman.

Unmanned aircraft can perform far outside the 8-9 G erformance envelope that limits manned aircraft.

Cons: The true test of remote combat aircraft will have to take place in an intensive hostile ECM environment filled withostile fighters and missiles. The manueverability of such aircraft will likely be more than offset by the lack of situational awareness of the remote operator and the difficulty of maintaining a viable radio link. More aircraft might be lost because remote operators have no feel for the aircraft and must rely on warning instuments and idiot lights to assess damage, perhaps not reacting to a critical or impending systems failure until too late.

Good points about the EW environment. As for situational awareness, though, I think within a few years, sensor and display technology will essentially give UAV operators greater SA when in combat. Granted, it will never replace the “feel” of the situation, but they can certainly compensate with improved sensors.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
Invulnerability Syndrome: Becaue it isn't really "you", operators may feel that they are invulnerable, thus needlessly incurring losses of expensive equipment.
This cuts both ways – if an operator isn’t afraid of dying, he might take greater chances and accomplish much more with his mission.


Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
Destroying a city full of living people is much more significant if you do it yourself, rather than simp0ly push a button from a thousand miles away.
Meh... we’ve been able to destroy a city from a thousand miles away with a single press of a button for half a century now.
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Old 20 Feb 06, 01:30
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SP: Good replies, although I get the feeling that as usual I didn't express myself quite the way I wanted to. My fault.

As the issue that is mostly fueling the drive for increased robotic units, the casualty count seems to be the most pressing, which is why I concluded that we are becoming overly concerned about it.

The units I have seen do not have a 360 degree field of view; they have a TV camera that will rotate 360 degrees, which is quite a bit different. The operator has to remember to constantly pan-and-scan in order to stay apprised of the developing tactical situation. Humans pretty much do this instinctively when in danger, and trained soldiers do it automatically and constantly. Additionally, as I mentioned, the TV cameras are very vulnerable to enemy fire, blast, shrapnel and so forth. Humans instinctivley shield their eyes from that sort of thing as much as possible, and can still see even with one ruined. Humans also have stereoscopic vision, which can be duplicated to some extent by robotic units, but not as well as we do it from birth onwards.

Durability: In order for a recon drone to avoid a SAM, it has to see it. Human pilots can do this; drones can't. The human pilot keeps track of a SAM at all times when avoiding it, in order to adjust his moves to get the best avoidance envelope possible. Because combat aircraft are intended to endure battle damage and survive, they are much more rugged and redundant than an anmanned drone. An A-10 Warthog can stay aloft with damage that would crash almost any other aircraft in the world. UAV's currently lack that ability, which is why I question their actual survivability in any sort of actively hostile environment, precisely where they would be needed the most.

My own soljution would be to convert combat aircraft into purpose-d

Re: Invulnerability Syndrome, you are right; it could go either way. But not feeling invulnerable can make an operator more cautious and wary and thus avoid simple mistakes.

Currently we only destroy cities remotely using WMD's, either missile or bomber-delivered. Are you familiar with the Air Force Odd Man Policy? During the Cold War, the Air Force postulated that an umarried officer on a nuclear bomber was the one individual most likely to carry out his orders and drop the nukes; therefore, each SAC crew was to have one in the crew mix if at all possible. At FE WArren AFB, home base to Minute Man silos and nuke launch crews, the launch officers are all very young, just out of the Academy or college, because it has been determined that they are the most likely to launch on command. To insure it, however,a jumber of critical changes have been made, two of which are the ability of another command capsule to assume launch command of another capsule's missiles, and the Positive Vote concept, in which the majority of capsuiles turning their keys guarantwees that all capsules will launch on that commnad. The central command unit can also override and lauch the birs of any or all caspules under its control. On top of that, there are constant Ethics sessions to try and instill the absolute need for following the launch orders, and to convince the young officers that it is "right" and "justified". So I would say that there are no guarantees at all in the event of nuclear ar. No one even knows for sure if the President actually will have the guts to give the Go Code. It is conceivable that a President might not be able to bring himself to give the order to destroy the world.

Removing humans from hands-on control of weapons of this magnitude increases the likelihood and ease of making this sort of commitment, because the operator really has no "feel" of being responsible, just as you and I don't when we destroy something in a video game. And that is the real risk; that critical actions such as war will be reduced to a video game in the minds of the operators. There is nothing I would not do in a video game, because there is no downside. Because the action is on a screen before me, it isn't "real", and that is risky with real human lives at stake.

Thanks for your thoughtful responses. Much appreciated.
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Old 20 Feb 06, 17:18
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Excellent topic MM and one that too many are overlooking.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
First, we need to all understand and agree that the machines in use and in testing are not "robots", but rather unmanned, remotely operated machines.
In use yes, testing is another story entirely. As you've probably read the 2005 160 km DARPA Grand Challenge race for fully robotic vehicles was completed successfully by several entrants. This compares with 2004's best performance of 7 km. Fully robotic systems are developing so rapidly that only the engineers involved can actually keep up. This is true even though remotely operated systems are still far from achieving their full potential.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
1. We seem perhaps overly concerned about combat deaths in our present society.
-Pro: Regardless of why we are so concerned, robotic devices would certainly lessen the death toll.
-Con: Removing any negative impact gives an undeserved moral approval to warfare. "Why not invade? It won't cost us anything?" We as individuals and as citizens of our nation need to be aware of the true cost of such actions.
We have a number of personnel issues:
*Personnel Security -- We weren't worried about Arab American troops until we found ourselves fighting in the ME again. What happens if we get involved in a big war in Latin America? Not a problem with machines. The con to that is domestic vs foreign sources for weapon systems parts and software but that is a problem now.
*Recruiting -- Some segment of the electorate will oppose almost any conflict you get into and that affects recruiting. Ideally, military force structure should be based on rational estimates of current and future defense needs not the popularity of the current administration or Hollywood's cause-de-jure.
*Manpower -- You cannot field a high tech, professional force with cannon fodder. The military increasingly competes for very expensive and scarce volunteers with an expanding civilian economy. As manpower becomes more expensive, automation will become an increasingly competitive alternative.
*Attrition -- It doesn't take 18 years to crank out a robot. The casualty rate of current operations does not affect your ability to buy more robots.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
2. Robots perform better than people on today's battlefields.
-Pro: Robots can certainly do some things that humans cannot, such as long-loiter aerial recon missions, ground surveillance under adverse light and weather conditions, bomb disposal, more rapid movement, etc.
-Con: A remotely operated vehicle is merely an extension of a human operator, a combination that will never match the intuitive ability of a trained human on-site. In fact, such remoteness may "take the edge" of the situation and give the operator a false impression, and although machines can utilize sensors far more capable than the human eye, nothing beats human intuition when surveying a scene, or matches human peripheral vision.
*Many parts of a current UAV's operation are completely robotic. Depending on the model, the operator may only have to specify waypoints and re-route communications to complete a mission.
*Robotic systems will continue to do best in uncluttered environments with the sky being the most favorable and a city the least.
*Robotics will continue to excel in specialist roles like the ones you listed vs ultimately general roles like MP or Infantryman. Humans will still have the advantage when dealing with other humans for some time to come IMO.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
3. Robots have better survivability.
-Pros: A real plus if true.
-Con: Personally, I don't believe it. The UAV's used for reconnaissance and missile firings do well because they fly unopposed. I seriously doubt their ability to survive a firefight, particularly given the lag between "pilot" and vehicle. The robotic fighting units I have seen have serious weaknesses and drawbacks, such as vision systems, lack of adequate armor, limited-to-no true peripheral vision and inability to go where humans can go...The only robotic vehicle than can fight and perform as an MBT is an MBT. Anything less is a target.
I believe this will vary greatly depending on the environment and the mission.
*Underwater systems to replace divers won't have to worry about the bends or hostile sealife.
*Every pound of armor a human wears reduces his useful combat load by that same pound. The armor level of a robot is limited only by the mission profile and your resources. One reason current infantry recon UGVs are unarmored is because they must be man-packable. The reverse should be true.
*There is no technical reason a robot cannot have 360 degree "vision". We just haven't gotten around to it yet.
*By combining visual, thermal, and multi-mode radar, with ECM and AWACS data, a robot could synthesize a level of "situational awareness" that a human could never hope to achieve. IMO that is their real #1 advantage, the robot doesn't get overloaded by data, or adrenaline, or pain.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
4. Robot fighters and bombers are the Air Force dream of the future.
-Pros: The Air Force would love to fly over enemy territory without the risk of losing a crewman.
-Unmanned aircraft can perform far outside the 8-9 G performance envelope that limits manned aircraft.
-Cons: The true test of remote combat aircraft will have to take place in an intensive hostile ECM environment filled with hostile fighters and missiles. The maneuverability of such aircraft will likely be more than offset by the lack of situational awareness of the remote operator and the difficulty of maintaining a viable radio link. More aircraft might be lost because remote operators have no feel for the aircraft and must rely on warning instruments and idiot lights to assess damage, perhaps not reacting to a critical or impending systems failure until too late.
-Care must be taken not to put all operators in a central location, thus making a fleet of bombers or squadrons of fighters vulnerable by knocking out the command center.
-Invulnerability Syndrome: Because it isn't really "you", operators may feel that they are invulnerable, thus needlessly incurring losses of expensive equipment.
A fighter pilot addressing an Army officer's course once said our pilots preferred the F15 to the F16 because the latter was "too automated" "makes you feel like you aren't in control." I wonder how this pilot would feel today?
*You are right about the g-limits of humans. The latest generation of missiles can pull nearly 50gs. Dogfighting is going to become a lost art sooner than many suppose.
*Directed energy weapons may make penetration missions into an advanced enemy's airspace completely unsurvivable in the not too distant future. If you are going into an undefended airspace, what do you need a skilled pilot for? There may be some room for manned aircraft in the middle ground in the near term but would that justify the multimillion dollar cost of pilot training and astronomical costs of F-22 equivalent aircraft?
*NASA and the USAF are both pursuing projects to create automated damage control systems that sense system degradation apply control corrections so the pilot can either continue the mission or recover the aircraft safely. A similar system is being studied for damaged civil airliners.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
5. Robots eliminate worries about POW's, especially female ones.
-Pros: true.
-Cons: consider the loss of technology when such a sophisticated device is recovered, and they will be recovered.
Technological advantages are always transitory. The no-POW point is certainly true. As to the technology:
*If your enemy is the Taliban, who cares?
*If you have a high tech opponent and don't install robust self-destruct systems, shame on you.
*The hardest part of effective robots will always be the easiest to destroy -- the software.
*I'll go you one better. If instead of using your own top of the line UAV for a mission you surreptitiously acquire a widely exported foreign model and use that? How will anyone prove it was you without a POW?
Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
My final thought for the moment is that to much distancing and disassociation from the realities of war can easily lead to the danger of war becoming totally hands-off, without emotional and spiritual impact and therefore more acceptable. Destroying a city full of living people is much more significant if you do it yourself, rather than simp0ly push a button from a thousand miles away. It's a good idea to remember at all times that you are not merely destroying tanks, buildings, power stations or bunkers, but also every living thing in and around them. It keeps things from getting out of hand.
Is war still hell if only the other guy has to experience it? We have a systems of checks and balances to prevent our politicians from getting [too] out of hand. What if North Korea got its hands on a small robotic army? How about Iran? Al Qaeda? Technology doesn't care who pushes the button.
QUOTE=MountainMan]And finally, how many generals per hundred robots will the Pentagon really need? [/QUOTE]
That may be the only thing keeping us from wholesale production of killer-robots. We should use this temporary respite to find answers for some of MountainMan's questions.
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Old 20 Feb 06, 23:02
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
The units I have seen do not have a 360 degree field of view; they have a TV camera that will rotate 360 degrees, which is quite a bit different. The operator has to remember to constantly pan-and-scan in order to stay apprised of the developing tactical situation. Humans pretty much do this instinctively when in danger, and trained soldiers do it automatically and constantly. Additionally, as I mentioned, the TV cameras are very vulnerable to enemy fire, blast, shrapnel and so forth. Humans instinctivley shield their eyes from that sort of thing as much as possible, and can still see even with one ruined. Humans also have stereoscopic vision, which can be duplicated to some extent by robotic units, but not as well as we do it from birth onwards.
Right, but in development, there are likely all kinds of sensor displays. Take a few large screen monitors and you can have every conceivable angle covered, not just in terms of video coverage, but IR, thermal, radar, etc.

Additionally, automation will take care of a lot of the problems. We’ve already got computers that detect incoming missiles and kick flares/chaff. We’ve got armor that detects incoming rounds and hardens/stiffens to help deflect the round. There’s the sniper detection computer that can detect a sniper’s bullet and trace it back to its origin within fractions of a second. Then there’s the anti-missile laser system that I think the Israelis are working on. I believe all of this, and much more, will add up to a robotic system that can react much faster than a human ever could.


Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
Durability: In order for a recon drone to avoid a SAM, it has to see it. Human pilots can do this; drones can't. The human pilot keeps track of a SAM at all times when avoiding it, in order to adjust his moves to get the best avoidance envelope possible.
Sure a computer can see the incoming SAM. With a combination of the Radar Warning Receiver that current fighters have, plus some optical equipment, a UAV will eventually be able to detect threats at much greater ranges and probably with much greater speed than humans.
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Old 22 Feb 06, 20:10
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MM makes a lot of good points and I don't have time to address each one specifically. However, a couple of general comments are in order.

Presently, robot technology is not at the point where it can replace humans on the battle field. It will be 20 or more years before that can be the case. However, virtually all the "cons" MM lists about robots will be solved by our technological advancement. These same type arguments were made about aircrft, carrier planes, tanks, the gun and virtually every military advancement ever made.

Sure, it took some vision to look at the Wright flyer and imagine aircraft would one day rule the battlefield but it happened. That same vision is required today to see how robots will rule the battlefield in the future. Robots are here to stay and they WILL take over. It's just a matter of when, not if.

So, imagine the robotic battlefield of the future where every units works as an interconnected team like so many ants. All the little robots act as one big robot even though the pieces are not directly connected. Every unit has all of the sensor info it requires because it can access the sensor grid which connects all the units directly. Moreover, the units are not swamped with info they DON'T need which can be a problem with humans. Too much data creates problems of prioritization and filtering. This can be done electronically much faster then by brain. These sensors would indlude everything from satelite observations to the sensors on units just over the hill etc. The robots would know exactly where the enemy is and be able to direct attacks immediately where needed.

Consider the different types of robots that will be employed. There will be remote controled robots, autonomous robots, and robots that employ a combination of both. The robots can work autonomously or be controlled by a human at any time. Likewise, you can have "leader bots" controlled by a human with a huge army of autonomous robots following the leader and supporting his actions. The robots will know exactly how to space themselves out for maximum firepower and to minimize damage from incoming fire.

Robots are not hindered from performing their mission by emotions such as guilt or fear. They will follow orders without hesitation. Therefore, suicide attacks are always an option. As we know from terrorists and the Kamakazis, that suicide attacks are very difficult to stop. Having an army of bonzai robots over running your position could be a difficult problem to face.

As far as the moral factors go, even bomber pilots in WWII faced the enemy they never saw. Did this make them less human and more likely to kill other humans then the rifleman on the ground? Perhaps, but in the end it didn't make any difference. The robot controllers will see the effects of their devastation through the robot sensor arrays so they will not be completely removed from the experience of war. Likewise, robots will not always be fighting other robots so the face of war will not change too much. Just a few more wrinkles.

Robot warriors will be most dependent on communication and computational power. Both of these technologies are presently making great strides. The robots are definitely coming....
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Old 23 Feb 06, 07:00
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Janos Janos is offline
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There are a number of factors that make me favor the use of robotics.

First of all, I like my troops. I know them and love them, ditto for their families. I'd blow up robots 50 a day for a century rather than lose one of them, if I had the choice to make.

Second of all, they don't have any families. Robota Sheehan* will not protest outside the president's house for a month when junior dies blowing up and IED. She also won't vote for my opponent next November.

Third, they're cheaper than soldiers. Recruiting soldiers, paying them, feeding them, equipping them, training them, and transporting them isn't cheap...and I haven't mentioned medical care if Joe gets wounded, which may last a lifetime.

Fourth, high losses among robots doesn't affect my troops morale, and if Zarqawi captures one of my robots and cuts its head off, I won't care.

Fifth, CBS doesn't care about robots. If we blow up 12 robots a day, CBS* won't hammer the government on casualty counts endlessly, protesters won't carry robot-coffins down the street, and people won't show up in Congress with a t-shirt saying "2000 robots died for oil" or whatever.

The bottom line is that it has been a hallmark of our doctrine at least since WW2 to use firepower and technology wherever possible in order to save lives. Abortion and death penalty arguments aside, as a nation we have a high regard for life and will do what is necessary to preserve it. I think that's the right thing to do and I suspect all of you do, too.

*I realize I am picking on Cindy Sheehan and CBS unfairly. The same could be said for all, or nearly all, anti-war activists or media organizations. In this instance, I don't mean any personal insult to them or what they represent.
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Old 23 Feb 06, 12:43
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You raise some good points, Janos, at least until the Sheehan bit. You forgot to add that it really wouldn't matter if your Sheehan 'bot complained or not, as official Bush policy is to isolate protesters where they cannot be seen or heard. In this case, probably at a scrap yard.

One of the questions I asked on another thread was whether or not the extensive use of robots would increase the likelihood of war. I think it might, for the same reasons you expressed. Losing robots would be like smashing cars in a demolition derby. No biggie - it just adds to the fun. Potential human losses would no longer be a factor. I wonder if we would have cheerfully obliterated the Japanese homeland and utterly destroyed it if we had had robots in WWII, instead of being weighed down by consideration of the 500,000 casualties we anticipated? When human costs are no longr a factor, it gets easier to start wars, especially politically.

A factor not yet discussed is the necessary technology and raw materials. To turn out highly sophisticated machines like these requires a lot of hi-tech manufacturing capability and in war, the ability to mass produce units in a steady replacement flow. High tech computer gear and sophisticated like-items use some critical materials. Additionally, in a counter to Janos' comment about human costs, the costs of maintenance,repair and replacement of robots will be very, very high. This will not be a grunt cleaning his rifle, but a small army of techs needing very sophisticated and expensive equipment.

I find myself wondering if the fear of loss of life drives the call for robots, or the anticipation of large profits by the potential manufacturers?
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Old 23 Feb 06, 13:06
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan
You raise some good points, Janos, at least until the Sheehan bit. You forgot to add that it really wouldn't matter if your Sheehan 'bot complained or not, as official Bush policy is to isolate protesters where they cannot be seen or heard. In this case, probably at a scrap yard.
So I was fine right up to my second point? See my footnote about Sheehan (who is on her way to Landstuhl Medical Center BTW -- hardly out of the limelight). I'll ignore your political jab at the Prez because I'm just tired as hell of reading them.
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Originally Posted by MountainMan
One of the questions I asked on another thread was whether or not the extensive use of robots would increase the likelihood of war. I think it might, for the same reasons you expressed. Losing robots would be like smashing cars in a demolition derby. No biggie - it just adds to the fun. Potential human losses would no longer be a factor. I wonder if we would have cheerfully obliterated the Japanese homeland and utterly destroyed it if we had had robots in WWII, instead of being weighed down by consideration of the 500,000 casualties we anticipated? When human costs are no longr a factor, it gets easier to start wars, especially politically.
Oh, good question. That really leaves the military arena, as you said, and enters the political field. I think it might lead to a greater chance of war, particularly if one side felt they had a situation of battlefield dominance and there would be no impact on their homeland/interests. Man, that's really one to think about.
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Originally Posted by MountainMan
A factor not yet discussed is the necessary technology and raw materials. To turn out highly sophisticated machines like these requires a lot of hi-tech manufacturing capability and in war, the ability to mass produce units in a steady replacement flow. High tech computer gear and sophisticated like-items use some critical materials. Additionally, in a counter to Janos' comment about human costs, the costs of maintenance,repair and replacement of robots will be very, very high. This will not be a grunt cleaning his rifle, but a small army of techs needing very sophisticated and expensive equipment.
You must be thinking of robots other than the ones we're using now. Are you thinking those 23rd century comic book jobs from Heinlein novels?

I guess either way I don't agree. That "grunt cleaning his rifle" is not cheap -- it costs hundreds of thousands just to get him to the battlefield and more to sustain and repair (robot terms) him. There is more to cost than just money, too, and I thought I laid that out.
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I find myself wondering if the fear of loss of life drives the call for robots, or the anticipation of large profits by the potential manufacturers?
You already have the question from my perspective. I'm sure the guys at IBM have a different perspective (again, not picking on IBM in particular).

The anti-war crowd voiced back in the 60s that the generals all wanted war so the industrialists could get rich. I didn't buy it then and I don't buy it now. Soldiers -- and generals are soldiers -- hate war more than anyone else. R E Lee had a great quote on that -- something like that in order to win you have to risk the thing you love the most -- your men. There are generals I've met that I didn't like -- but I never met one that was so heartless that he wouldn't do anything to save the lives of his soldiers.
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Old 23 Feb 06, 13:45
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Fourth, high losses among robots doesn't affect my troops morale, and if Zarqawi captures one of my robots and cuts its head off, I won't care.
Not that the scenerio of being beheaded by terrorists is a laughing matter, but...



The image of terrorists capturing/abusing robots is just hilarious.
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Old 23 Feb 06, 13:48
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Very cool thread, MM.
About what types of robots are you talking here? Remote controlled battle/recon drones, like the Predator, that are in use and work well to some point, or about the sci-fi, high tec battle droids ala Hollywood.
I think to some point it´s not unreal, that robots/machines overtook some military dutys in the near future. But here starts the problem. About what sort of duty are we talking here? A GPS guided drone, firing rockets on a target is one thing. Replacing human soldiers, doing check point duty, searching operations in narrow streets in the suburbs in a mega city is another. Maybe, in the faaar future this will happen.
A robot has advantages, no fear, no pain, no hunger/thirst etc, but he has disadvantages also, no instinct, no knowlegde, no feelings and his KI...so you need a human behind the robot.

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