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Terminator teddy
by Asa Butcher
2007-06-11 09:42:18
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While browsing through the BBC website I spotted a story entitled "US designs a 'robo-bear' to rescue injured soldiers" and immediately had to read it – well, wouldn’t you? It appears that the US military is developing a robot with a teddy bear-style head to help carry injured soldiers away from the battlefield. According to the article, "The Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot (BEAR) can scoop up even the heaviest of casualties and transport them over long distances over rough terrain."

The first thing that came to mind was Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator and how disastrous that invention was for mankind. Didn't we learn anything from the fictitious Skynet? It appears the answer is a no because it takes no great leap of the imagination to go from a BEAR retrieving the wounded to creating wounded. Change a few screws and bolts here and there, duct tape on a few M16 machine guns and, faster than MacGyver can sneeze, you have a Terminator with a friendly teddy face.

Naturally the BEAR is controlled remotely and uses cameras and microphones to provide the operator with eyes and ears on the battlefield. How hard would it be to add laser-guided sights to this gentle robot and send it behind enemy lines to bring warm greetings from the US military? Even in the article, in the very last line, Vecna Technologies, which is developing the robot for the US Army, stated that they are also working on other potential applications for the robot technology, including helping move heavy patients in hospital.

Hmmm. Do you think that these new robots will be equipped with the Robot Ethics Charter that will cover standards for users and manufacturers, which is set to be released later this year? The code is to prevent humans abusing robots, and vice versa, but we have all seen countless movies where this is never enough. You may claim that Hollywood is merely fiction, but may I remind you of a quote from the author Tom Clancy: "The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense."

How long ago would you have scoffed at this idea of robots being used in the battlefield as far-fetched fiction? Five years, maybe ten, could be a little more, but here we are on the verge of a robotic breakthrough that could change war forever, whether it is collecting casualties or mocking the first of Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics: "A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm."

The idea of robots in battle really has a disturbing feel to it and this is why it has been such a key element in science fiction for decades, but now fiction is set to become reality again. Is the planet ready for circuitry marching relentlessly across the enemy front lines and are the enemy ready for circuitry to be marching towards them shouting, "Hasta la vista, baby!"

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Paparella2007-06-10 12:36:09
No surprises there. Once man is declared nothing else but "extension into space" (Descartes), the jump to thinking of him as nothing than a machine to be approached as a machine is quite easy. In fact Robocop will be thought as superior to a regular cop because it has no feelings, just rationality and therefore it makes no mistakes. It always catches the criminal, with or without a gun.

The appeal of Star Wars to billions of people, and not only little old ladies, was that it portrayed an ancient myth: that of the fighte of a noble warrior agains the forces of dehumanization. That begins with Homer's The Ilyiad within Western culture and it is a fallacy to think of it as the fight of technology (or rationality) vs. the poetical. It is the fight of the poetical vs. dehumnanization.

Thanos2007-06-10 12:46:45
By the way there is a similar story, scifi novel by Philip K. Dick and a Sci fi/horror film with the same theme!!! most scary part the end when the hero returns home with a ...teddy for his kid!!!

Paparella2007-06-10 12:47:25
A follow-up: at the end of the move Terminator the mother is happy that her son has found a true loyal friend, Mr.Terminator himself, who is of course a robot. Need one say more?

Thanos2007-06-10 13:53:47
haha!!! Good point!!!

Sand2007-06-10 16:40:31
Behind every "terminator" or robot, or remote controlled mechanism is a human mind and to shift the blame for human insensitivity and destructive horror to the tool manipulated by a responsible human mind is to be incredibly unaware of the depths of nastiness that unaided humanity could reach. All it needs is a piece of rope in the hands of lynchers or a water bucket in the hands of water boarders.

Paparella2007-06-10 19:26:44
People commit genocide, not ovens, cavalierly proclaims the modern rationalist who considers Man the sum of all his chemical parts, approximately two dollars, and then makes lampshade with his skin, a machine of sort produdced by a random evolutionary process.

It took two hours for a dozen such assorted rationalists with Ph.Ds after their name in an ultra "civilized" country proud of its reasoning philosophers, to plan and rationalize the Holocaust of elevn million people, and three short years to efficiently execute the monstrosity.

While it is true that those ethical midgets are responsible for that monstrosity, not their technology, it reamins true that they certainly availed themselves of it to facilitate their plan. The trains ran on time and they were proud of the fact. Even that clown of Mussolini began imitating them and made his trains run on time too. That too was applauded as a sort of miracle of efficien ordering in Italy.

Compared to that lack of ethical imagination, all the nastiness of primitive Man, all the European religious wars, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the nationalistic and imperialistic wars, as reprehensible as they are, begin to look like a picnic of sort. Indeed, the paradox of rationalism devoid of imagination postulating a random universe with no Mind behind it, is not so much that it will rationalize what ought never be rationalized, but that it turns itself into the the irrationalism it claims to condemn, and then naively hopes that somehow Man's innate "decency" and rationality aided by a science unconcerned with the ethical will come to the rescue at the last moment. History proves otherwise and those who do not learn its lessons and "misremember" them, as Tnny Judts puts it, are bound to repeat them, as we were warned by George Snatayana not so long ago.

Sand2007-06-10 20:03:35
One certainly should beware of Georges, the king, the president and the odd philosopher, Georgie Snat who knew where it was at. Certainly when one goes picnicking though history the holocaust, replete with PhD.s, was a noteworthy accomplishment but the delights of the Inquisition and the Crusades and the fire burning of Dresden and the atomic vaporization of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the murderous subjugation of the enslaved blacks in the USA plus the genocide of the Native Americans and the wonderful Belgian regime in Congo should not be left out as a consideration of human nature no matter the level of education of the leaders. After all, the slaughter of about a million was accomplished with mere untechnological machetes. Whether all this was rational or irrational seems somehow pointless. I'm sure it was poetically inspirational.

LL2007-06-10 21:19:19
Technology enables.

Sand2007-06-10 21:39:09
You should know. For either the malicious or beneficial depending upon who uses it

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