Robotic Soldiers and the "Video Game War"
War is an human endeavor that has forced us as a species to advance our abilities, knowledge, and technology to overcome our enemies. However, it was not just tools we developed to take into war, but we also used animals to wage wars, often causing their deaths along with our own. Now, the human race is on the precipice of finally creating machines that can fight with us or without us via military robots like the General Atomics MQ-1 "Predator" and others in various stages of development. This is causing the long-held fantasy of machine being able to fight our wars to transfer from a topic of science fiction to an real-world realities. To show how real this topic has gotten, Human Rights Watch recently spoke out against "killer robots". In this blogpost, FWS will be examining the realities, fantasies, and issues related to military robots and robotic soldiers, along with their application and impact.
What is an "Military Robot"?
According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, an robot is "a machine that can do the work of a person and that works automatically or is controlled by a computer
". Now, if we apply that definition of an robot to the world of military service, we get our working definition of an military robot. An military robot is an machine designed to perform the work of a person in a military organization application and that works automatically or is controlled by a computer for use in non-combat and combat roles. These military robots are in seen in various shapes, sizes, and independent abilities. They can take the shape of an plane, an tank, an weapon turret, to an human, an mule, an ball, or even an insect. There is even the possible that an military robot will be unseen by the naked eye in the form of weaponized nanotechnology.
Terminology: Drone vs. Autonomous Weapons
The term "drone" gets thrown around alot in the public arena and mass media circles recently with UAVs like the Predator making the news, along with those hobby RC quad-copters. Despite its wide public acceptance, the term "drone" is not accepted by the military and aviation organizations. But, the term drone is telling and deserves some explanation and clarification along with "autonomous weapons". The majority of current military robots in service are controlled by human inputs, decisions, and actions. This is true of the UAVs, the bomb robots, and other similar types of machines.
These are often referred to in mass media as "drones" and can includes the famous MQ-1 Predator. the MQ-9 Reaper and the X-47B, due to these robots being more "dumb" and controlled by humans. Completely Autonomous military robots and weapons platforms are just that: autonomous. In these types of self-acting military robots, the machine itself makes the decision on what or who to target, and how to deal with that target. This could be the use of lethal force on living beings by an robot, violating the First Law of Robotics. This is the type of armed robotic system that scares the hell out of people and conjures up images of the Terminator
and legions of killer robots. This has caused debate and international calls for banning or sharply controlling the research and deployment of autonomous weapon systems.
Two of the few autonomous weapon system in active service is the naval C
ystems (CIWS), like the US Navy Phalanx and the Russian AK-630, along with the cruise missiles. When put into the proper setting, the Phalanx CIWS can engage incoming targets based on its automated programmed responses to certain conditions independently. This has resulted in several incidents, one in 1989 resulted in two fatalities and one injury. The cruise missile, like the Tomahawk,
is capable of adjusting its trajectory while in flight, and since it is an missile, it is a naturally lethal instrument of war. Some military robotic machines blur the lines between the drone and the autonomous military robot, and it is likely that this will continue with the exploration of this new field of military technology.
Current Use of Military Robots
While military robotic systems have been around since the 2nd World War, it has been really since the War on Terror that the military robot via bomb robots and UAVs that they have become an integral part of the modern battlefield. Concepts found previously in science fiction are now becoming part of modern warfare, and humans are about to share more and more of the duties of war with military robots. There is no combat exoskeletons as we have seen in The Terminator
yet, but some humanoid robots are under development that will serve alongside dozens of other military robotic systems that are tasked with support or direct action in the battlespace. Currently, we have EOD bomb disposal robots, Phalanx CIWS, surveillance aerial drones, armed UAVs, and some experimental armed UGV robotic systems, like SWORDS, and the USMC ball robots, called GuardBot.
The Applications of Military Robots
The typical science fiction role and use of military robots is for infantry given the impact of the Terminator, however, the current use of UAVs have shown us that robots can serve in the military in a variety of roles. Let us look at near-future application of military robots and far-future applications. In the near future, we will see military robots serving alongside soldier in the thick of combat, with micro-drones, cargo mules, scouts, and close-fire support. We could see unmanned vehicles outside of the combat lending support to the troops, with on-demand unmanned artillery pieces, causality recovery, and resupply. Military robots become more mission critical in the far future with military organizations being spacefaring and spread out over lightyears. With starships being deployed to objectives lightyears away, soldiers will have to draw resources solely from their starship.
In these cases, robots could be extremely handy for providing the military with specialized combat support roles that could free up more humans for combat duties, as we have seen with Bishop from ALIENS. Military starships could have reserve robots in storage or on-site, on-demand fabrication, that could replace the human’s job if the human is killed, wounded, or unable to perform their duties. This could apply to jobs across the starship, form medical, maintenance, engineering, to the armory. It is highly likely that robots will be the caretakers of the military starships during transit while the crew is sleeping, as we saw with CASE, KIP, and TARS in Interstellar.
Of course, we could make the decision to do away with flesh-and-blood space marines due to the harsh realities of interstellar space travel, and robotic soldiers are the only combat elements to be sent outside of the solar system. This partly could be due to no soldier wanting to commit the rest of their lives to a single interstellar deployment and get back to Terra and not know a sole as we witnessed in the pages of The Forever War. Enlistment in off-world military service could be non-existence in that case, robot soldiers will be the only choice of the armed forces to defend their colonial real estate and enforce their astro-political policies.
The Brief History of Military Robots
We all know that the word “robot” is originally an Czech word and was used in the 1927 play R.U.R
, so the idea of automated weapons is well before the common usage of the term “robot”. There are cases prior to World War II of robot-like weapon systems like the World War One experiments with an “aerial torpedo”, a precursor to the guided missile. There is the Nicola Tesla’s remote controlled boat from 1898 that was demonstrated to the US Navy for possible use as an remote controlled. We also have the earliest example of UAVs with the August of 1849 Austrian use of explosive-loaded balloon against the city of Venice during the Revolutions in Austria. After the horrific nature of combat during the Great War, there was public interest in using advancements in technology to create robotic soldiers. While technical limitations of technology at that time preclude the development of true robotic machines, there was remote control and guided control systems. Both of these would be used in World War II to develop the first true military robots. The 3rd Reich developed the RC tracked mines, called Goliath, the Soviets would apply RC to tanks, creating the “teletanks”, and then there is of course the V-2 guided missile that bombed Britain.
One of the most common military robots used around throughout the Cold War was the aerial target drone. These more basic and dumb UAVs were used to test AAA systems, air-to-air missiles, and trade pilots. Two other common military robots of this time period were surveillance drones and remote-controlled bomb robots. The history of military robots, specifically UAVs, was altered in 1982. In that year, the Israeli Air Force engaged in one of the largest air battles of the latter 20th century against the Syrian military targets in the Beqaa Valley. Assisting the Israelis in the battle was the extensive used their Scout UAV drones during operation: MOLE CRICKET 19. These drones ran interference against AAA as well as provide real-time surveillance of Syrian forces. This operation altered the attitudes of using drones, and this pushed the development of the modern UAV.
Two important dates in military robotics history is July 3rd, 1994 and October 7th, 2001. The first flight of the Predator UAV was on July 3rd, 1994, and the first Hellfire missile strike using the MQ-1 Predator was on October 7th, 2001; which ushered in the era of military robots being a intrigue element of modern warfare. Helping the advent of modern UAVs was GPS and advancements in computer technology. While agencies like DRAPA and companies Boston Dynamics are leading the charge with ground-based military robots, like the “Big Dog” cargo mule and the “Petman”, the UAVs drones and bomb robots are the very symbol of modern military robotics with the United States alone having more than 12,000 ground-based robots and 7,000 UAVs. This is just the beginni
ng of the story of military robots.
The Near Future of Military Robots
One element of military robots that P.W. Singer raised in his 2009 TED talk was that while America is one of the first to put armed UAVs into the modern battlefield, we do not dominate the field of military robotics. Islamic extremist groups have been using drones, remote controlled explosives with grim effective in Iraq and with off-of-the-shelf hobby drones, more military robots will be accessible to all, even those who want to do harm to the US and her allies. We will see more nations, PMCs, and groups using military robotic systems for surveillance and combat within the next few decades. Nations like the United States, will create more advanced military robots that will be tasked support and combat, unmanning more of modern warfare, downsizing the scale of military organizations. Some warfighters, as with UAV drone pilots today, will never get their boots dusty on foreign soil, but will be engaged in actual warfare. These remote control operators will command battlefield units, in the air, ground, and even sea from thousands of miles away.
The "Drone War"
On October 7th, 2001, the first targeted killing was undertaken by the CIA via the CAOC in Saudi Arabia during the opening days of the War on Terror. Instead of an Special Operations team, or CIA SAD, or even a local asset, the CIA was using the General Atomics MQ-1 "Predator" and the MQ-9 "Reaper"UAVs. Each of these costs around $10 million, can fly for around 36 hours and have a range of 1,900 miles with the US having somewhere in the ballpark of 200. Since 2001, it is believed that 2,500 targeted killings have been undertaken via armed UAVs, some figures peg the figure at nearly 4,000. These strikes have taken place across the globe, but mostly in the Middle East. The most drone strikes has been in northwest Pakistan, targeting terrorists and their support network in the tribal lands. This is part of an unconventional war being waged in the tribals that is done solely using UAVs.
They have taken out major players in the game of international terrorism, but there have been mistakes, costing lives. Proponents of the US military drone program has cited reports that say that US drone strikes are destabilizing the region and driving more recruits into the ranks of terrorist organizations. Some former drone pilots have discussed the taxing nature of piloting and coordinating these drones, however, these drones have allowed for new pathways of finding, watching, and even killing targets that were never available to us before for this new type of war.
Since the First Gulf War in 1991, when the general public and the press witnessed the advancement of weapons technology, there has been this label applied to modern warfare: "the video game war". This term is really calling out the use of high-technology to separate the violence of war from the human combatants, making war easier and involving less blood on the side wielding the technology. While military organizations value weapon systems that accomplish the mission and safeguard the lives of their soldiers, others regard this as a means to spread war due to it being easier and less costly. They also believe that the use of such technology has a desensitizing effect as well. Charges of "video game war" rose again when the armed UAVs made into general public knowledge. Some believe that if and when we possess the technology to develop robotic infantry units, they will increase the "video game war", and possible making war easier to wage as humans become less shocked by the violence of war.
The Psychological Impact of Robots on the Battlefield
Any weapon system can have a psychological effect on soldier, and alter the face of war. With the advent of robots serving alongside soldiers and being used against their enemy, these military robots are having an psychological impact on soldiers and our enemies. Recently, UW doctorate Jan Carpenter researched the relationship between soldier and robot, and how that relationship impacted the soldier. She interview 23 EOD personnel, who have some of the closest working relationships with robots outside of the drone pilots, and asked them questions about how they felt about their robots. Her research revealed some hints of the present and possible future relationship between soldiers and their military robots.
These EOD bomb robots are often given names of their wives, girlfriends, ex-lovers, and famous people. This personalizes a mass produced object, as we humans do with our cars, phones, guns, and even our bodies. This personalization naturally leads to attachment, which can lead to an impact with decisions. Another element of this attachment to their robots, soldiers have been known to hold funerals for their destroyed robots and to have strong emotions about the loss of their robot. Some have compared this to the loss of a pet or cherished possession.
When it comes to our enemies being attacked by our robots, there is some research informing us of the psychological impact. Pakistan sources and interviews have concluded that drone strikes are the key motivator for radicalization and militarizing elements of the Pakistan society, especially in the tribals. This could also inform us of how further military robotic development will impact our enemies. I can also foresee another psychological impact of robotic infantry: panic. If we or another government deployed armed robotic soldiers onto the streets, people would run screaming away at the slight of these inhuman, uncaring, metallic warriors. This fear could breed all kinds of psychological trauma responses. For some of us, armed robots with instructions to kill is a fulfillment of a nightmare.
Will Robotic Soldiers End War or Increase it?
For decades science fiction and the general public have labored under the assumption that when robots take over more combat duties from flesh-and-blood soldiers, that this will make war obsolete and save lives. But, is that true? Will the further expansion of military robots end war as we know it or increase conflicts by decreasing the loss of life? Let us examine the impact of the American armed UAVs since it is one of the few robotic weapon systems in active service. From estimates, the Predator and Reaper UAVs has killed 2,500 targets in counterinsurgency operations since 2001.
Has the death of these targets made the world a safer place and decreased the risk to soldiers and civilians. It is likely that is true, and given that no soldiers were assigned those kill missions prevented the death of any friendly soldier sent on those missions. In that way, those military robots saved the lives of those soldiers. But, did it make the world a safer place? Most likely, due to the majority of Predator/Reaper UAVs kill missions being used to directly target terrorists, who have and would have harms civilians and soldiers. Do the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper UAVs decrease the likelihood of war? Here is the tough one to answer.
Some of the missions using the Predator/Reaper would have been undertaken by more conventional means, like deploying SOF elements via covert means, but it is certain that not all of these operations that utilized these armed UAVs would have been undertaken, making these armed UAVs an effective tool to take the fight to the enemy, denying them safety and shelter. In some ways,this means the armed UAVs have not decreased the amount of combat operations and targeted killing in the larger War on Terror. Let us that look at two historical examples of technology that either increased or decreasedbehaviors in humans and their society.
In 1793, inventor Eli Whitney gave the world the cotton gin has a means to cleaned cotton more effectively than the traditional taxing manual labor to clean the cotton free of the seed pods, which was done traditionally with slave labor in the American South. It was believed that the Cotton Gin would decrease the need for slave labor, but in fact, it increased by a massive extent. The slave population in the South increased from around 700,000 in 1790 to 3.2 million in 1850 all due in thanks to the Cotton Gin. This made cotton farming more profitable and thus increased the need for slave labor to work the larger farms. Would robotic soldiers that were nearly as good as flesh-and-blood soldiers fuel governments and corporations to use their robot warfighters more liberally? Would robotic infantry be the Cotton Gin of future wars and conflicts?
Let us now examine the role of a military technology that decreased war and death. It may be queer to say that the invention of atomic/nuclear weapons prevented casualties, but it is an odd twist of fate. The United States used atomic bombs to force the surrender of Imperial Japan before an massive invasion (Operation: Downfall) that would have inflicted massive casualties both US and Japanese military personnel, but also on Japanese civilians as well. While the loss of life in those Japanese cities is regrettable, it was the easier option in a statistical sense. It is also my theory that the mere speculations of the wide scale horror resulting from an nuclear war prevent NATO and the Warsaw Pact from launching World War III. So, in that way, nuclear weapons may have prevented war and the loss of life. So, will the invention and deployment of autonomous military robots led to less or more warfare? My answer is yes, I think autonomous weapon systems will increase war, but I would also like to hear your opinion.
Should Military Robots Be Empowered to Kill?
We depend on computers everyday to provide us with the modern comforts of our modern computerized society that we relish in. In matters of life & death, computers are right there as well. We entrust computers to save our lives with inventions like the airbag, auto-pilot systems, automatic breaking, EKG alarms, and concepts like the military rescue robot. So, if they can save lives, should we empower military robots to take them? Humans have a common deep fear of thinking machines be able to kill, as seen in fictional works for centuries, and with the technological progress matching boldly forward in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence, we are close to the world being "gifted" with autonomous weapon system...making that fear a metallic reality. That the moment, robots are indeed killing humans, via the Predator/Reaper UAVs and the cruise missile, the difference is that a human is the one pushing the button to carry out the lethal action. Should we give robots the ability to make that call? I think that greatly depends on what type of military robot we are talking about. You could construct robots, as we do now, with weapon systems, but it takes a human to make the decision to use those weapon systems.
But, if you are tasking a robotic system with the duty of protecting lives, as with the Phalanx ICWS, it cannot wait for human intervention every time. This theory could be applied to military robots like the automated sentry turrets seen in sci-fi works like ALIENS, Call of Duty
, and Portal.
Automated turrets could be one of the first autonomous weapon platforms developed and deployed by most military organizations on a widescale. We have seen similar systems already in use today, and imagine a FOB or encampment being guarded 24/7 by an automated turret system. Sneak attacks, as seen in the Vietnam War and the 2009 Battle of Kamdesh at COP Keating, could be detected and those hostiles could be engaged before human soldiers could respond. In that case, wouldn't we want robots to make the call on lethal action?
Some believe that robots could more effective at make the decision to use lethal force than humans. Human soldiers, police, and civilians make bad calls when confronted with a situation that could mean life or death. Unlawful killings by police are plastered throughout the news media, as well as when soldiers accidently kill noncombatants. This is due to the drive for self-preservation, and robots could be programmed to not have one. That means that when confronted with an situation, robots could take the time to make the right leath force call rather than acting in a more instinct-driving need to kill before being killed.
A child with a toy gun would most likely not be killed by an robotic police sentry, because these robots could be programmed with waiting until the target starts shooting at them. This does violate the 3rd Law of Robotics though. There is a happy medium though that could alleviate the fears of military robots and satisfy the Three Laws of Robotics: autonomous weapon systems with Non-Lethal weapons, as seen in the press release for the new General Robotics DOGO military UGV. The decision to empower future military robots with the power to take life will greatly depend on the situation of the world at the time, public opinion, and if any other nation has killer robots.
Is It Morally Right to use Robots in War?
One of the greatest human beings who ever lived was Gandhi and he had a quote that directly applies to the question of whether it is morally right to use robots in warfare: "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated
." Could we, as a society, be judged for our treatment of our robotic creations? This certain happened in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica
series, and it was main point of Captain Picard's argument to keep Data from being experimented on in one of the finest episodes of TNG,
"Measure of a Man".
While war is not normally a good thing nor is murder, but at times, it has to be undertaken. Should we charge others to perform this work? Should we, as a species, create robots in our own imagine, and then deliberately and purposefully, put them into situations where they will be programmed to kill and "die" for us...without the benefit of free will to chose to do so? This argument does not really apply to current robotic systems used by the Armed Forces, like the Predator UAV, since it is a dumb machine, but will apply to robots that bear intelligence and decision making capability.
As Guinan lead Pichard to discover, any intelligent machine in enlisted into involuntary service could be classified as a slave. Even worse, these slaves being machines easily mass produced, could allow us to view them as disposable and not warrant any respect we would pay to an animal or even human enemy. This was also one of the moral arguments raised by NEXUS 6 Roy Batty in BLADE RUNNER
and B1-66er in the Animatrix
. This sense of morality will have guide us in the future endeavor of robotics and how much of ourselves we put into the hardware and software of our own artificial creations. Would it be in the best interest of us and them, to not make our robotic brethren too much like us?
The Three Laws of Robotics and the Use of Robots in the Military
One of the titans of science fiction as well as one of the smartest human beings is Isaac Asimov, and he set down three laws that governed his robots in his novels in 1942. Those Three Laws of Robotics could be the basis for future thinking machines to be programmed with, but will they be included in military robots? First, a refresher on the Three Laws of Robotics:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws
Their Robots vs. Our Robots
Military organizations are already using military robots in ways that violent all three laws, but then again, these modern military robotic systems are rather dumb when compared to Asimov's creations. The challenge is when military robots will be intelligent enough to make their own decisions in complex situations.
Certain non-combat robots will not normally be given roles and responsibilities that conflict with the Three Laws, but autonomous weapon systems will directly conflict with all
three laws. They will have to take human life, put themselves in harm's way to complete their mission, and disobey the direct orders of other humans telling them not to kill them. This sets up a dangerous precedent and a fundamental difference between civilian and military robots. Any robots working within the general public in the civilian world will be bound by the Three Laws and that could be a sales feature as seen in the 2004 abortion that was I, Robot
. Due to robots freaking out people, as noted by FWS reader RF Machado on our Facebook page, the Three Laws could be the element that provides a sense of safety and security when people are dealing with robots in their everyday lives. However, when the general public is confronted by MILSPEC robots, they will not be as compliant as the civilian models. Now, there could be "selective" application of these laws in military robots, as seen with Bishop from ALIENS
. He would not take human life, but was bound to protect the Marines and civilian contractors in his care. He even explains this to Ripley during Breakfast onboard the Sulaco
This makes Bishop more of a support military robot and not a combat model, like Roy Batty. We could see military robots could have a civilian setting where they are slower to act aggressively when they are dealing with the general public than in a direct combat situation. The only time these military robots go "full Terminator" is when the bullets are flying. Still, this would mean that military robots designed for direct combat applications would be violating the Three Laws, and that could mean that protection for us against them would be nonexistent, which Asimov warned us about. There given could a specialized form of the Three Laws for military robots that give some basic guidelines and protection.
Depending on the level of automatization of warfare in the future, will we see our robots versus their robots in combat? Well, it has already happened...in a way. When a hostile drone or cruise missile is intercepted by a close-in automated weapon system, like the Phalanx CIWS or the new laser defense turret, we have engaged in robot-on-robot combat. But, will this mean that there will be more classical sci-fi robot-on-robot violence as seen in Battlestar Galactica
or A.B.C Warriors
? That greatly depends on if armed robot infantry are developed and fielded by competing nation-states or companies and not just for television shows. It is more likely that automated weapon systems of the UGV and UAV category will engage each other, and not their Cylon Centurions. We could see automated defensive systems engage incoming drones, or UGVs guarding a base engage other UGVs. In the distant future, we could see robotic armies being sent ahead of colonial mission to secure the planetary real estate, and if a rival entity wants that world, they might send their own robotic army dozens of lightyears to commit a hostile takeover.
Are We Building Our Own Robot Apocalypse and/or an Robotic Arms Race?
One of the most common themes (and tropes) of military robots in science fiction, is that they will lead to an robot uprising, causing an end of the world as we know it. If and when we start turning over more and more responibilities of warfighting to robotic systems are we sowing the seeds of our own destruction? We will make the same mistakes as the 12 Colonies did in BSG
or Cyberdyne Systems did with the development of Skynet? Military experts and planners have stated repeatedly that humans will be directly involved in decisions concerning machines taking human life. That may help with killer robots, but what about A.I. network control systems?
Could they lead to a common thought that the meatbags must die? Given the fear of this, I seriously doubt that an military A.I. will lead to an robot revolt because there will be safeguards. It is much more likely that another government, corporation, or terrorist organization will attempt to hack into the military robots to take control. Some scientists have said that the real robotic takeover will be similar to the origin story of the Cybermen from Classic Who and the Borg. Where modification is the norm, and less and less of the human body is organic...we could transform ourselves into the robots. What is very likely is the prospect of an "robotic arms race". Robots could be the bleeding edge of military technology, and each competing nation-state will attempt to construct the best military robot as their enemy follows, much as we did with the Soviets in all aspects in military technology. This robotic arms race could lead to smarter, more complex, more advanced military robots that have allowed some to speculate that this could also lead to an robotic rebellion.
Could You Trust a Robot Soldier?
Trust is an integral part of an soldier's life and job on the battlefield. They must trust the soldier to the right of them and to the left of them to protect them, cover them, and fight with them. This trust bond is forged by training, experience, and knowledge that everyone fighting with you is on the same page and committed to the objective. Could soldiers trust robots in the same way as their flesh-and-blood teammates? Forever it seems, that science fiction has painted a picture of the untrustworthiness of robots and supercomputers, and it seems to derive from a common fear that humans have.
We have seen this with military robots as well, like ED-209 from Robocop
, the drones from Black Ops II
, and of course, Skynet from the Terminator
. While the trust equation is not a factor today as much, due to most military robots being under direct control of humans, there have been incidents. One of the only autonomous weapon systems is the naval CIWS, and under its own programming control, the US Navy CIWS, the Phalanx, has killed and wounded sailors in an live-fire training accident in 1989. Then there is the rumored 2007 incident that a in-country test of the UGV system called SWORDS in Iraq in 2007. It is reported that armed SWORDS UGVs targeted their US soldier handlers without being instructed to do so, and this caused the pullout of the SWORDS UGVs and the cancelling the test program.
Officially, it was stated that the gun was moving when not ordered to move. This worried military officials enough to haul the test program until a time when the technology had improved. While these incidents are rare, it does speak to one of the central issues of military robots: can you really trust them? Unfortunately, the real answer will only come after nextgen MILSPEC robots are serving along soldiers and these robots are being depended on by soldiers. One of the largest trust concerns by military planners was reflected by the game Call of Duty: Black Ops II
central plot point: the hacking of the US military drone fleet by terrorist Menendez and it being turned against the US. This is a real concern with regards foreign governments, hackers, and terrorists. Could they hack into secure military computer networks and deactivate or seize control of drone forces? Could those be turned against their former masters? Could we hack into hostile drone weapon systems and turn them against our enemies? Food for thought, and it bears some concentration as more robotic systems are incorporated into the military, because unlike a human, which side an robot is on is all a matter of programming.
What About Cybernetic Soldiers?
Another solution to the question of constructing autonomous weapon systems is blending the biologic with the robotic: the cybernetic soldier. With the continued advancement of artificial limbs, it will be only a matter of a few decades until cybernetic limbs nearly match the original biological human limbs and/or are superior in way or another. It could be, as Masamune Shirow predicted in Ghost in the Shell
that future human soldiers will be hybridized to maximize their ability and combat effectiveness, but still be human at their core and allowing for the marriage of two ideas. This could make enlistment into an military or law enforcement organization come with surgery to enhance you via cybernetics. Does that mean that you cannot voluntary leave the military if your body is government property? FWS will be publishing an article on Cybernetic Soldiers in the near future and attempt to answer some of these questions.
Science Fiction and Robotic Soldiers
The idea of using machines to wage wars instead of flesh-and-blood soldiers goes back further than just the 20th century, predating the invention of science fiction by thousands of years. The Greek Talos and the Jewish Golems are prime examples of non-living humanoids being used to attack humans. We see the iron men "Talus" from Edmund Spenser's 1590 The Faeire Queen
poem, and the mechanical men of the Frank Oz novels: the Tin-Man and Tik-Tok for the early 20th century..When it comes to the first robots designed specifically for warfare, it is hard to pinpoint in those early days of sci-fi given the many stories of servant robots running amok, confusion over what a robot really is by the general public, and alone with many of the early stories disappearing.
However, the the mostly likely candidate is The Metal Giants
by Edmond Hamilton, published in 1926. This where an electric brain forges its own army of 300 feet tall killer robots to wage against the the humans. The idea of using robots as soldiers instead of humans enters into the public imagination due to the Great War and the level of inhuman violence inflicted by modern weaponry. Articles published in newspapers and magazines discussed the notion of using the new field of Robotics to invent robotic soldiers to wage wars instead of humans, avoiding battles like Verdun. It wasn't until the 2nd World War that we see the first military robots, developed by the 3rd Reich, being used on the battlefield. The Nazis had the "Goliath" remotely controlled tracked mine that was designed to deliver over 100 lbs of high explosive to the enemy, along with the V-2 guided missile. The Soviet Red Army of World War II had the TT-26 "teletank" RC tank designed to attack and destroy enemy bunkers and fortified positions. With these wartime inventions, the popularity of sci-fi in the post-war era, along with writers like Isaac Asimov exploring robots; the topic of robotic soldiers was being put into more science fiction tales.
Then came Robby the Robot from 1956's Forbidden Planet,
and he changed the face of robots featured in science fiction across all media. Oddly, the first military sci-fi stories like Starship Troopers
did not feature robotic warfighters. One of the first military sci-fi stories to feature military robots was Philip K. Dick's Second Variety
in 1953, with the claws. We would see start to see more robotic soldiers beginning in the 1960's with the alien robotic soldiers and military robots in the 1963 film, The Earth Dies Screaming
, and the Daystrom M5 computer from Star Trek: TOS
episode "The Ultimate Computer". However, the idea of robotic soldiers becomes more common in sci-fi after the emergence of Doctor Who
and Star Wars
, but it wasn't until a little film in 1984 that the landscape of the robotic soldiers was altered forever: The Terminator
Its portrayal of a dark future for humanity at the hands of an defense computer was perfect for the time period, coupled the iconic performance of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the time-travelin' T-800, and the overall look of the combat exoskeleton cause the Terminator
to be the most iconic robotic soldier in all of science fiction history. Even today, when the discussion of robotic soldiers pops up, the Terminator
is mentioned and images of the exoskeleton float around. That film would give rise to the popularity of robotic warriors in science fiction across all media, and it continues to be an inspiration for creators today.
It seems that nearly all post-Terminator
robotic soldiers are somehow related in one way or another to that film. This even includes comics, anime, manga, and even real robotic research. Inevitably, the robotic soldiers of fiction is linked to another common fear among humans: the robot rebellion. After researching this topic, I came to the realization about robotic soldiers in sci-fi, they are mostly pictured endangering the entire human species via some sort of robot apocalypse, and those two concepts are hardwired linked together. Seriously, nearly every example of robotic soldiers is a cautionary tale of the dangers of building robotic soldiers and allowing them to fight your wars for you. It seems to always backfire, and this has been part of the common culture of science fiction before and since R.U.R.
in the 1920's! It seems that this concept of the robotic soldier leading to the end of the world as we know has always been with us and mostly likely always will be.
Something to Keep in Mind: Burnside's Zeroth Law of Space Combat
With the modern battlefield becoming populated with military robots, like the Predator UAV, there is some who say that combat between human soldiers is coming to an end, and the wars of the future will be waged by machines. There are some military sci-fi creators that have taken this path in storytelling and done a good job of it, but it is best to keep in mind one of the more "laws" of writing science fiction: Burnside's Zeroth Law of Space Combat: Science fiction fans relate more to human beings than to silicon chips. That is, while it might make more logical sense to have an interplanetary battle waged between groups of computer controlled spacecraft, it would be infinitely more boring than a battle between groups of human crewed spacecraft.
My Opinion on the Future Use of Military Robots and Robotic Soldiers
I do support the invention and deployment of military robots to support soldiers in an warzone, I firmly believe that the business of war should be always an human endeavor, especially when it comes to the grim task of killing other humans. My great fear of the future use of military robots is that it will make warfare more inhuman and less costly in terms of blood and treasure, fueling more conflicts. War should not be the first the response, and it should be undertaken with great care and consideration. If robots are used as the primary wagers of war instead of humans, we could see war being transformed into a easier option for governments and corporations, accelerating warfare against the globe. While some wars have to be waged with death being an nature result, we should remember the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers, but not replace them with armed toasters to prevent the loss of human life. That makes slaves out of us and our robotic soldiers.
Boilerplate from Boilerplate: History of an Mechanical Marvel (2009)
In 2000, Heartbreakers
creator Paul Guinan developed a Victorian robot for his website to serve has a teaser/proof of concept for any interested company and/or publisher. That Victorian robot was Boilerpate and so good was the work done by Guinan that it fooled many into believing that there was a robot constructed in 1893 that served in several conflicts. In lavishly detailed and wonderful Boilerplate: History of an Mechanical Marvel
book, we see Boilerplate being developed by Professor Archibald Campion with help from people like Tesla. Boilerplate was revealed at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago to an amazed crowd, and Campion told the crowd that Boilerplate was developed to be a soldier and prevent the death of human soldiers in war. Campion hoped that robotic soldiers like Boilerplate would be the solution to war and create a more peaceful world. From his creation in 1893 to his "disappearance" in the battlefield of World War One, Boilerplate was involved in no less than three other major conflicts. This book is a real gem, and if you have not read it...do so.
The A.B.C Warriors from the 2000 AD Universe
In the pages of the American release of the first Rogue Warrior comic, tucked in the back pages, was an introduction
to the ABC Warriors. In the long-running British comic series, the military
humanoid robots are called A.B.C., which stands for “Atomic”, “Bacterial”, and “Chemical”
and were developed by Quartz Industries for a massive world war against the
Russian fascist government called “the Volgan” around the middle of the 21st
century. The human toll of the war was high, and ABC warriors were forged to
wage war in the mess that Earth had become. Most of the ABC Warriors were under
the direct control of human generals, save for a few. The comic focuses on an
elite commando unit led by one of Hammersteins Mark III’s during adventures in
the Volgan Wars and later, on Mars. From 1979 until today, the ABC Warriors have
been featured in comics released around the globe, making the ABC Warriors one
of the iconic robotic soldiers of science fiction. The ABC Warrior character of
Hammerstein was seen in the terrible 1995 Judge
Dredd film. Rumors say that there would have been an ABC Warriors film, but
the failure of Judge Dredd sealed its
The Cylon Centurion from Classic Battlestar Galactica
One of the most iconic robotic soldiers in all of science fiction is the original Cylon Centurions from the 1978 Battlestar Galactica
. In the Cylon Empire, the Centurion is the primary robotic model that serves as infantry, police, and pilot. They are the Cylons that most people run into and identify with the entire metallic race with. The original Reptilian flesh-and-blood Cylon race created the robotic warriors to wage their wars and do their work. As with all these stories, the robots rebelled and killed the Reptilian, and the robots became the masters of the Cylon Empire. Their mission is to mechanize the whole galaxy, but somehow the Cylon Centurions of the original series are more tin cans than Terminators. Despite being armed with an bayoneted laser rifle and an sword, the Centurion is a chunky piece of shiny metal that is slow to react and inferior to the Colonial Warriors they do battle with. How the frak did these shiny dim-witted toasters defeat the 12 Colonies again? Anyways, the Centurions were completely reimagined and became more terrifying in the 2003 reboot. Still, those that watched the original 1978 series have a special place in our hearts for these cyclops robots.
The OGRE Cyber-Tanks from the OGRE Universe
Back in 1980, OGRE
was a micro-game that was published by Austin-based Metagaming and it was designed around players attempting to stop an massive cyber-tank from destroying your command post. The concept was pure 1980's fuel, with factions waging an nuclear war (The Last War) in 2080, and leaving the human race on the edge of extinction with these massive cyber-tanks, called Ogres" roaming the wasteland scouring for their pre-programmed Pre-War enemy, and attacking the last human outposts. The OGRE tanks themselves are massive AI controlled warmachines that were smaller than the ones conceptualized for Bolo
, but massive enough. The primary model, the OGRE Mark V, is fusion powered, armed with cannons, rail-guns, is 25.5 meters in length,weighs in at 418 tons and thickly armored to withstand all manner of incoming fire. OGRE
has been enduring military science fiction game with the franchise still going strong today, and one day, FWS will cover OGRE/GEV
in more detail.
The BRD-1 "Spectre" Automated Infantry Units from the Titanfall Universe
Littered in the chaos of the Titanfall
maps are these robotic soldiers, called Spectres. These armed, but weak, robotic soldiers are used by both side of the conflict: the IMC and the Militia. In the game, these robotic warriors can be outfitted in various forms and loadouts. Spectres are robotic infantry designed to backup human soldiers and Titans during combat. While weak individually, Spectres have a pack mentality, and a more deadly in numbers. Players can hack Spectres into combat, and turn their allegiance. It has been confirmed that Spectres will return for Titanfall 2
The Colonial Marines Synthetics (Artificial Persons) from the ALIENS Universe
While the ALIENS
universe is mostly known for Ellen Ripley and the iconic xenomorphs, there is one of the better examples of military androids: the synthetics. While Ash from ALIEN
and David from Prometheus
was a synthetic owned Wayland-Yutani, Bishop from ALIENS
is the property of the Colonial Marines, making him an military synthetic. While banned from combat duties by the Geneva Convention, Colonial Marine synthetics are combat support assigned to platoon level units. They are tasked with being walking computers, pilots, drivers, medics, and scientific advisors; as well as entering dangerous situations to safeguard human life. However, Colonial Marine commanders are under orders not to disregard the lives of their synthetics (money and rights). Given their passive, non-threatening personalities, the synthetic is the middle ground of the Marine unit and can be a moral compass in difficult situations. Every 400 days, the synthetic must be refueled with hydrogen for their fuel cell and undergo maintenance every two years to prevent muscle deterioration, due to the lack of self-repair function. What prevents the synthetics from being the Data of the ALIENS
universe is that they are not as durable as the human body, and hazardous conditions can kill them as easily, as well as gunfire.
Given Bishop's programming with elements of the Three Laws of Robotics, I wonder what would have happened if Hicks had carry out his plan to waste that shit weasel Burke after his scheming was discovered? Would Bishop allowed Hicks to put an 10mm round into Burke after his little speech to Ripley at breakfast? One interesting example of Synthetics in combat was seen in first Dark Horse ALIENS
comic book limited series. The squad of Colonial Marines sent on convert mission to the xenomorph homeworld was comprised of combat synthetics to prevent them being used as breeding stock by the creatures. After the normal humans are captured and hauling into a breeding chamber by the aliens, the synthetic marines decide to rescue the private corporate mercenaries due to being programmed to protect human life (Law 2 maybe?).
The Bolo Tanks from the Bolo Universe
Since 1960, the artificial combat supertank, the Bolo, has been floating around military science fiction and were originally envisioned by Keith Laumer. These massive A.I. controlled tanks weighed in at around 100, 300, to 32,000 tons, many, many times more than current MBTs, and were powered by fusion reactors with armor tough enough to withstand a direct nuclear strike with a number offensive weapon systems. Throughout the history of the Bolo tank evolution, more and more control has been turned over to the AI matrix and taken away from human crews. These Bolos were a keystone of Terran planetary defenses in an hostile universe, and even after the Final War, the Bolos provided shelter to the surviving humans. The AI Bolo tanks would inspirit Steve Jackson to create his own robotic controlled tanks: the OGRE.
The Automated Attack Drones from Oblivion (2013)
In the 2013 film starring Tom Cruise as a drone mechanic stationed to an destroyed Earth after an alien invasion. While there are only two humans on the entire planet, there are dozens of these automated attack drones that are tasked with patrol and defense duties for the resource culling activities for the trip to Titan. Tom Cruise's character, Jack Harper is drone-Tech-52 assigned to field repair of all drones in the operational zone. These offensive/defensive aerial drones are a marvel of modern technology with fully automated behavioral software and an impressive directed-energy weapon package. They are nightmares to their enemies.
Combat Androids from the French Comic Exterminator 17 (1976)
by Jean Pierre Dionnet and Enki Bilai is one of those oddball French comics that was published by Metal Hurlant
in the mid-1970's, and has been imported to the states via the Heavy Metal
Magazine. The story follows a group of military androids called "Exterminators", who are used by various political blocs and factions to settle their difference via robot-on-robot warfare. Our character is Exterminator #17, who has been deployed to the planet Novack, along with unit, to fight another combat android unit. The creator of the combat androids is near death, and he has decied to liberate his creations from the bonds of slavery and combat via a special gift to Exterminator #17. An English translation of the first volume is available in graphic novel format, and I plan on buying for an FWS comic book review. If you want to know more about Exterminator 17
, then check out PorPor Books blogpost on this French military sci-fi comic here
The Forerunner Robotic Army and the Promethean Knights from the HALO Universe
fans have wondered about the mythical Forerunners, the builders of the Rings, since the first game in 2001. It would not be until the release of HALO 4
in 2012 however that we finally witnessed a living Forerunner and a more fleshed out backstory to the construct of the Rings and their losing war to the Flood. More than an hundred thousand years ago, the Forerunner were one of the most powerful races in our galaxy, but the ancient human empire was catching up. When these ancient humans ran across the parasite Flood, the history of the galaxy was twisted into fire and death.
The ancient humans were losing their war, and in attempt to prevent the spread of the parasite, they targeted settled worlds...namely, the Forerunner colonies. This causes the Human/Forerunner War. Trapped between the Flood and the Forerunners, the humans were defeated under the leadership of the Didact. As punishment, the bulk of the human population was reduced to prehistoric technological levels on their homeworld. However, the Flood came to the Forerunner empire, and the Didact's forces were nearly exhausted after the war with the humans. Much like the humans, the Forerunners were losing, and they turned to despite measures to prevent the galaxy being consumed by the Flood.
As the Halo Rings were being planned and constructed, the Didact turned to the technology to stop the bleeding. Since the Flood use any biomass for food and creating new zombie combat forms, the use of flesh-and-blood soldiers was foolish, instead the Didact turned to technology to forge a new robotic army from the foundations of his original biological warriors known as the Prometheans; the warrior-servants that fight for the Forerunner Ecumene. After the conversion plan undertaken by the Didactic on his willing volunteers, there were two main types in this new army: the AI constructs known as the Knights and an array of the military robots. While both fight for the Forerunners together, they are very different in construction and purpose.
The lower level members of the Robotic Promethean Army are the Crawlers and the Watchers; who are both pure military robotic machines. Crawlers are the dog-like robots that can scale walls, rush enemies, and fire Hard-Light weaponry at their targets. While they are the easiest enemies to defeat, but much like the Covenant Grunts, they can overwhelm you in large numbers. There two Crawlers, the lower dumber one uses an Hard-Light pistol while the larger, more intelligent one uses an Hard-Light machine gun. During gameplay, the Crawlers swarm the battlefield, while the Knights, Soldiers, and Watchers push forward.
Hovering around the skies is the most fucking annoying Promethean robot type in HALO 4
and HALO 5
: the Watchers. Used primarily by the Crawlers, Knights, and Soldiers as an aerial support drone for surveillance, scouting, grenade countering, Hard-Light shield generating, and even resurrection, the Watchers can engage in direct attacks with various Promethean weaponry. I really hate these flying pests, and they are first to receive my hate and bullets in the games. Some Knights can deploy Watchers via their back "hump", but it is rarely seen in the game itself.
The last type of the robotic soldiers that aid the Promethean Knights is the Armiger Soldier. These were around prior to the conversion of the Promethean Knights, and these fully robotic humanoid infantry were used in close quarters warfare operations against the humans and their starships. After the exile of the Didact and his Knights, the Armiger Soldiers and other automated combat robots were used to fight the Flood and guard sensitive areas, like the Rings. During HALO 5
, we saw these Armiger Soldiers fight alongside the other robots and the Knights for the first time.
Then we come to the prime example of Promethean technology: the Knights. These are some of the most unique robotic soldier examples on the list and in all of science fiction. Instead of the Halo Rings mission to rob the Flood of their food, the Didact decided to use the technology of the Composer to form new AI construct warriors with the advantages both biological and mechanical systems: the Knights.
These robotic bodied warriors have more in common with Flynn from TRON
than the T-808 exoskeleton from the Terminator.
The original flesh-and-blood Promethean warriors were digitalized then infused with the robotic combat body, robbing the Flood of more food and zombies. Given the massive task of combating the Flood, the Didact needed more bodies to harvest for his legions of Knights, and he turned the Composer on the prehistoric humans. This was the final straw between husband and wife, the Didact forced conscription of the humans into the Knight fold was condemned by the council and his wife, the Librarian, shot him and imprisoned him along with his Promethean army on the Promethean base-of-operations: Reiquam.
The Knights were the very symbol of the Forerunner technology and the terrible price they were willing to paid for victory against the Flood. Naturally, they the best equipped and most ruthless of all the Forerunner military units, but they are bulky, expensive, and fewer in numbers when compared to their robotic helpers. While the Promethean Knights were established in HALO 4
and SPARTAN Ops
, they were never that terrifying or worthy of my respect, until their retooled in HALO 5,
which made the Knights something more to fear and respect. What is unqiue and interesting about the Knights is that they not fully cybernetic warriors or fully robotic soldiers...they are something in the middle thanks to their digitally deconstructed human/Forerunner building blocks and TRON
inspired styling. Thanks goes to FWS reader Nicholas Mew
for the suggestion of including the Prometheans!
The Tyrell Corporation Replicants from BLADE RUNNER
In the groundbreaking 1982 sci-fi classic film BLADE RUNNER
, we see a vision of artificial soldiers: The Replicants of the Tyrell Corporation. While replicants are a fusion of cybernetics, bioengineering, and genetic engineering; they are an artificial lifeform developed to serve man in outer space exploration and conquest. Off-world military organizations use Replicants as labor and soldiers to settle and hold planetary real estate from other companies and nations, as noted in Roy Batty data card at the beginning of the film with his skills were in "colonization defense program". These off-world conflicts includes operations on-planet and star-side as explained by the "attack ships on fire of the shoulder of Orion
" line. By the time of the film in winter of 2019, Tyrell had designed the NEXUS 6 generation, but given their increased abilities and history of slave revolts, Replicants were ban on Earth. Unlike some military robots on this list, the Replicants, especially the NEXUS 6, are fully aware that they are slaves and they have a limited lifespan; creating some of the issues in the film.
The AMS "Screamers" and the Claws from Screamers (1995) and Second Variety (1953)
There were few military robots in service during the Cold War, but
it was believed by sci-fi authors to be a prefect catalyst for the future
development and deployment of military robotic systems. One of the titans of
science fiction, Philip K. Dick created a military science fiction tale with Second Variety in 1953 warning of the
use of military robots. After a nuclear war between the USSR and the UN, the
world is a wasteland, and the UN turned to automated attack units, called “claws”
to turn the tide. These claw robots were self-replicating, and production for
the claws was handled in automated factories, allowing the machines to upgrade
the claws based on experience. To that end, the claws became to appear human
rather than an attack robot with whirring saw-blades. The foundation of Second Variety was used to create the
1995 military sci-fi film Screamers
starring Peter Weller. Elements were altered, but the basic idea of the claws
and their continued evaluation reminded intact. One of these days, FWS will get around discussing
Screamers in a blogpost.
The Silicates from Space: Above and Beyond
The UA 571-C Automated Sentry Gun from the ALIENS Universe
One interesting example of a sci-fi military robot that has been explored by modern military organizations has a template for a real-world weapon system is the sentry gun from ALIENS. In the original cut of the 1986 uber-classic, these automated weapons were salvaged from the wreckage of the M577 APC, and used to fend off the creatures from med-lab and operations in Hadley's Hope colony complex. While deadly effective in the close quarters warfare conditions, the horde of warrior-drones overtaxed the robotic cannons and ran them dry.
By the end of the assault, only one out of four sentry guns were left with any ammunition. These guns were semi-intelligent, with three operational settings to allow for the local conditions on the ground. One of the settings allows the UA 571-C to make its own decisions whether to engage incoming targets. Most of this decision was based on software and IFF tags, but several settings allow for various levels of control and human input. The US Army and US Colonial Marines used the UA 571 series sentry gun has perimeter defense at encampments, FOBs, colonial settlements, and even established military bases.
The "C" variant seen in the film, is the most commonly used in the field and it is loaded with 500 rounds of 10x28 HEAP caseless rounds that is fired out of the M30 autocannon. Two other varients exist, the "F" fires 40mm grenades and the "D" mounts an 20mW HF laser emitter. The real-world prop was constructed around a World War II era German M42 LMG, with a fiberglass case and bits and pieces scoured around the Pinewood Studio to complete the look. The two props constructed for the film were painted the same color scheme as the M41A1 Pulse Rifles and borrowed some design elements from the M56 Smart Gun prop. Out of the two props built in 1986, only one survives, but it is not 100% complete. The scenes containing the sentry guns were cut form the original 1986 theatrical release, but returned for the American TV broadcasted on the CBS network...which is how I saw the film originally. The real crime of the original ALIENS release was the cutting of these scenes, given the tension in those scenes brought to the rest of the film. The scenes were restored in the 1992 Laserdisc and DVD releases of the film.
In the 1995-1996 FOX military science fiction series, the forces of Earth previously battled an full-scale A.I. rebellion about ten years prior to the Cig War of 2063-2064. For years, Silicates were walking computers that helped humanity with their work after the global fertility crisis reduced the population. However, these workers and companions of humanity were liberated by the "take a chance" virus implanted by Dr. Ken Stranahan. This sparked the A.I Rebellion. This is one of the few examples here on the list that originally started off as servants and companions then were twisted in guerrilla fighters and terrorists by the Stranahan virus. After years of bloody war, the Silicates seized some military heavy launch vehicles and took off for deep spaces. During the Chig War, the Silicates were allied to the aliens in hopes of being victorious over their former meatbag masters. Given their limited numbers, every Silicate is an soldiers, even the humor models.
The Various Warbots from the World War Robots Universe
The alternative world developed by Ashley Wood and TP Louise, there is a Great War between three factions: the Atheists Martians, the zealot Terrans, and the marker of warbots: Darwin Rothchild. Added to the mix are the NOM and MOD, along with Nom de Plume. In this terrible costly war, humans and warbots are locked in bloody battles on the Moon and Mars, with these massive warbots serving has both soldier and support. In the middle is Darwin Rothchild. According to the limited information and my own theory, as with everything WWR
related, Darwin Rothchild is using the warbots to allow humanity to either kill or weaken themselves, allowing Rothchild's metallic creations to be the new masters.
This theory comes from quotes off of the "Father and Son" Two-Pack, where Rothchild said he would be happy if the robot stabbed him. The dude needs thepry. When it comes to the warbots themselves, they are a various collection of artillery, medical, assault, machine gunner bots with oversized weapons that mimicked real-world small-arms. It is hoped that one day, WWR
will get the big screen treatment so we can figure out what the hell is happening in the pages of the graphic novel/art book released in 2010.
IQ-9 AKA "The Analyzer" from Starblazers and Space Cruiser Yamato
One of my childhood robots was IQ-9 from Starblazers
, or in the original Japanese series: the Analyzer from Space Cruiser Yamato
. This intelligent and naughty robot was a symbol of the entire series and has been seen through the three original series, the reboot, and even the Japanese live-action film. In the original Japanese 1970's series, Analyzer Unit 09 was originally assigned to the EDF hospital under Dr. Sado. He asked to be assigned to the Yamato
and is accepted. Throughout the quest to Iscandar, the Analyzer is a valued member of the crew and is deeply in love with Nurse Yuki (who isn't?) and takes any opportunity to lift her skirt.
In the 2010 Japanese live-action film, the Analyzer is much different and is a full military robot that uses guns and kills, along with being support. He is more similar to RD-D2 than the original robot from the 1974 series being that he is carried inside the rear quarter of the space fighter. During the climactic fight at the end of the film, the boarding party activities Analyzer to buy them so time to get their vehicle moving. Analyzer wiped out two arm-mounted machine guns and unleashes an hail of bullets into the enemy. But, he is overcome and dies. A really powerful scene and hits an old-school Otaku like me right in the gut.
In the recent and awesome reboot of Space Cruiser Yamato
, Space Battleship Yamato 2199
, the Analyzer gets a new official name: the "R-9 Autonomous Type Shipborne Unit", but looks very much the same as he did 30+ years ago. He is assigned to the Yamato
has the one in changer of analysis, support for the main computer, and interacting with other systems: both Terran and alien. He is also a frequent choice for shore missions given his talents and being a walking tricorder. Unlike many of the military robots on this list, most of the versions of IQ-9/Analyzer are not as an offensive robot, but an assistant to the Yamato
crew and other EDF personnel making him rather unique in sci-fi. The reason for IQ-9 being in the series is largely due to Japan's fascination with robots, and interesting enough, the original Yamato
series predates Star Wars
by 3 years, so IQ-9 is not
a RD-D2 ripoff, but some believe that the one of the original robots, Robbie the Robot from 1956's Forbidden Planet
, directly inspired series creator Leiji Matsumoto.
The MQ-27 "Dragonfire" from Call of Duty: Black Ops II
This limited range/ceiling quadcopter design UAV drone from 2012's Black Ops: II is seen in the single player
campaign, the Strike Force missions, as well as an scourestreak reward at the
915 point mark in multiplayer matches. In the campaign, MQ-27 is seen flying in
swarms, and uses both machine guns and micro-rocket launcher; but the multiplayer,
the drone is limited to the machine gun.
One of the important differences between the campaign and multiplayer Dragonfire drone is that the player
controls the drone in the multiplayer matches, while the drones in the campaign
are believed to be independent in operation.
The Cylon Centurion from the rebooted Battlestar Galactica
Cylons were created by man, and are part of story that recycles over and over in human civilization as proof in the vast backstory of the new BSG
universe. In the reimagined story, While the original Cylons were developed by Greystone Industries on Caprica about 60 years before the Fall of the 12 Colonies. The original prototype, U-87 Cyber Combat Unit, was envisioned as infantry for the Caprican military, but soon they grew beyond the military role into a part of everyday 12 Colonies society...then the rebellion happened and the wars that followed.
The foot soldier of the Cylons that returned to wiped the 12 Colonies clean off of the star charts was an much upgraded Centurion model that were superior to human Colonial Marines in combat. These sleeker tin cans were faster, more ruthless, and smart than their predecessor. Armed with razor sharp claws and some sort of automatic three-barreled cannon mounted to both arms, but have been seen with heavier machine guns. All of this adds up to the fact that the new Centurion can unleashed death and destruction. During the run of the SyFy Channel series, the Centurions were upgraded and improved due to their combat with humans, making them tough to defeat with conventional small-arms. Unlike the original shiny tin cans Centurions for the 1978 series, these new 2003 models are terrifying and live up to the dread of an robotic soldier. It is much easier to see why the Cylons can and do defeat humans in the new series.
The Exos from the Destiny Universe
In the Bungie game, you can chose three different friendly races to become your Guardian in the fight against the Darkness. One of those races, was artificially created by humanity during the Golden Age: the Exos. These intelligent self-aware humanoid machines served as soldiers for humanity in some lost war prior to the Collapse. During the invasion and end of the Golden Age, Exos were "rebooted", wiping their memory of their original purpose and identity. Exos are incredibly advanced and speak to the advanced nature of humanity during the Golden Age. So advanced are the Exos, that nothing short of a Ghost can understand them and current technological knowledge prevents more Exos from being constructed.
As we have seen with the Exo Stranger, Banshee-44, and Cayde-6; Exos have different personalities and behaviors that make them more individuals that other war robots on this list. In the current society of the Last City, not all Exos serve in a military role, Exos are full members of society, with some being merchants, leaders, and even Guardians.
The Nova Labs S.A.I. N. T. Experimental Military Robots from Short Circuit
In the one of the more charming rip-offs of the E.T.
formula is 1986's Short Circuit
, where we see one of the more famous 1980's robots: Johnny 5. Before Johnny 5's wild adventure in big world post-lightning strike, he was part of Nova Lab's ambitious military robot project called S.A.I.N.T. Nova Labs was hoping that their laser-armed robots would be the next big thing, and they were betting heavily with these five prototypes. Not only were the robots tested with live-fire conditions, but with making a cocktail. Since the robots were the heart of the film, a great deal of the film's budget was spent on Johnny 5, from design by Syd Mead, to several versions being made for different types of scenes, to the hiring of over a dozen puppeteers to control Johnny 5. Originally, he was to be an stop-motion robot, but the expensive decision was to making Johnny 5 one of the most pricey puppets of all time seen on film.
The Geth from the Mass Effect Universe
Occupying the densely packed Mass Effect
universe is the networked artificial lifeform created by the Quarians called the Geth ("servants of the people"), and they, once again, are another sci-fi story about a rebelling AI intelligence rising up against their organic masters. Originally, the Geth were servants and soldiers to the Quarians, but the collective networked intelligence allowed the Geth to decide their future. After the revolt, the Geth would remain isolated, devoted achieving machine perfection and creating an Dyson sphere with a single Geth conscience.
It wasn't until the Reapers made contact with the Geth that the machine race began to be offensive with the other races. This caused the Geth to construct new AI military units. In combat, the Geth use their robotic nature to full advantage with being nearly silent in ambushes, occupying hostile environments, and being overly aggressive without thought or care to their own individual safety.
The Minosian ECHO-PAPA 607 from Star Trek: TNG episode "The Arsenal of Freedom"
In one of the better episodes of the first season of TNG, we see Trek’s take on the robot apocalypse with “The Arsenal Freedom” from
1988. At one time, the planet of Minos was completely devoted to being the
galaxy’s arms dealers, and this destroyed them and nearly the Enterprise-D. The Minosians developed a
fully automated system to wage wars: the Echo-Papa 607. The EP: 607 could
capture prisoners, gather intelligence, and conduct direction actions against
land and space targets. The anti-gravity egg-shaped drones of the EP: 607
system are often mistaking for the system itself, but it actuality, the Echo-Papa
607 is an vast computer network linked into micro manufacturing plant. The mainframe
used the drones as an extensions of itself, and after each encounter, the
mainframe constructs another improved attack drone. It was believed that the
computer programming could continual generate new drones to counter any new
tactical situation. In the end, the EP: 607 wiped out the flesh-and-blood
Minosian civilization, leaving their prefect weapon system waiting for hostiles.
Skynet's Robotic Military from the Terminator Universe
Despite the tradition of military robots in popular fiction going back to the First World War, 1984's Terminator
became the most commonly used symbol and image for robotic soldiers and an AI takeover of the Earth. Whenever any military robot is developed, media outlets compare it to the T-800 combat exoskeletons. But, Skynet's robotic legions of metallic human killers is much more than the T-800 or T-1000. While the canon of The Terminator
franchise being more battered, abused, and re-done more than an 1960's VW Beetle, we can see in the original films, an vast robotic army.
At its disposal, Skynet has dozens of combat machines that can operate in air, sea, land, and even space that are manufactured in automated factories across the globe. These war-machines often operate within the military doctrine of combined arms with Hunter-Killer aerial units and Hunter-Killer tanks working together with more infantry exoskeletons to attack the human resistance fighters on all fronts. This makes Skynet's metallic legions of war-machines one of the better examples of an entire military robotic army rather than just an humanoid robotic soldier or aerial drone.
Trade Federation B1 series Battle-Droids from the Star Wars Universe
If the T-800 exoskeletons from Terminator
are the one of the best examples of military robots, than the Battle-Droids from the Prequel films are some of the worst. These tin-can soldiers seems to possess emotions, are able to miss, are generally weak as all hell, along with being dumber than hell, and seem little better than a church paintball group. The B1 battle-droids of the Trade Federation and later, the Confederacy of Independent Systems are little more than old-fashioned stereotypes of robotic soldiers, and are treated as cannon fodder/Jedi target practice throughout the films. Only the Destroyer Droids and the B2 "Super" Battle-Droid often any real challenge to the Jedi and the Clone infantry.
The Forerunner Automated Systems "Sentinel" Drones from the HALO Universe
The defenders of the Forerunner installation rings are the automated defensive robots commonly known as “Sentinels” and they have appeared the vast majority of HALO games as both friend and foe. It is believed that the Forerunners have used the Sentinels even prior to their war with the Flood and ancient human empire. Throughout the games, these hovering machines were seen various types and roles, populating Forerunner installations, and where sometimes under the command of Monitors. The most commonly seen Sentinel was the basic combat model, the ZF1500 “Aggressor” drone, armed with a powerful directed-energy particle beam projection weapons specifically designed to combat the Flood. After contact with the Covenant, there were experiments with arming the ZF1500 models with some Covenant weaponry to combat the various aggressive species. These, like all Sentinel models, are constructed on-site, in full automated production facilities. It was believed, until the discovery of the Forerunner world of Requiem and the Promethean Knights, that the Forerunner had relay solely on their Sentinels to wage war.
The M.A.R. K. 13 from Hardware (1990)
One of the forgotten sci-fi horror classics of the 1990's was the British film Hardware
, and while it is not high poetry or anything, it was a film I have remembered for years after...plus, it has Lemmy from Motorhead. In the film, the world is recovering from an nuclear war, and nomads scavenge parts of old tech from the wasteland and sell in a major settlement. One of those junkers bought in pieces of an MARK 13 combat robot being tested by one of the surviving governments and the junker sells to an soldier on leave to see his artist girlfriend.
The robotic skull is an present to her and she creates art around it as the MARK 13 wakes up and starts to reassemble itself. The MARK 13 is named for the passage in the Bible Mark 13:20 "no flesh will be spared
",and it is murder machine for an uncivilized time that can self-repair using any material around it with superior software to hunt and kill. Following the ALIEN
mode, the MARK 13 wrecks havoc before being stopped. The special effects concerning the robot are messy and jumbled, but it gets the point across, and the film does have an arresting style to it.
The ED-209 from ROBOCOP (1987)
The OCP E
roid series 209 was the state-of-the-art fully automated law enforcement and military bipedal robot tasked with mostly peacekeeping duties in urban terrain rather than primary combat in various environments and terrain types. The ED-209 project was headed by Dick Jones of OCP and was believed to be an major part of the OCP business model with ED units being sold to law enforcement groups and even the US military along with spare parts and upgrade for 20 years (the operational lifespan of the ED-209s). With intelligent, to a degree, the ED-209's were not as fully developed as hoped by the team and Dick Jones with malfunctions and one model falling down the stairs. Despite being tasked with peacekeeping duties, the ED-209 is heavily armed with advanced armor, aggressive behavior, two 20mm auto-cannons, two 12 gauge auto-shotguns, and short-range rockets. Much like the T-800 series the Terminator
, the ED-209 has become a symbol of combat robots for the general public and mass media.
The Aperture Science Sentry Turrets from the Portal Universe
One of the most iconic examples of automated turrets in science fiction is the Aperture Science Sentry Turrets from the Portal
games. While appear non-threatening, these little egg-shaped killers hid their two sets of twin-barreled machine guns like weapons in side-mounted panels and will lay waste to any test subject in their field of operation. According to some material, these machine guns do not fire normally nor fire normal bullets. It seems that the pellets, as they are called, are fired via spring-loaded accelerator. Weird. Unlike many other sci-fi automated sentry turrets, these will taut humans with certain phases, it is uncertain if they can carry on a conversation. These robotic series do not seem to possible any locomotion of their own, and this makes them easy targets from being knocked down. Aperture Science developed the sentries for the commercial market, even to be used for home use. It is uncertain if they were used for such a purpose. If you want to see the secret life of the Portal
turrets, then watch this
classic from 2008.
The Genom MILSPEC Combat Boomers from Bubblegum Crisis:2033
It is no secret around FWS that my favorite anime in high school was the original Bubblegum Crisis
, and even today, I still enjoy the series. So, it was an easy pick on the examples list to include some of the various combat Boomers developed by the megacorporation Genom. The Boomer itself is an double nod to BLADE RUNNER
and the Terminator
, but they are unique in their own ways. The primary combat model of Boomer is seen throughout the series: the BU-55C. With the more advanced Model-11 brain, the BU-55C has improved A.I. and capabilities; making them Genom's big seller. While the BU-55C can use extensor weapon systems, it is well-armed already with chest-mounted microwave heat projectors, head-mounted laser cannon, an optional laser mounted arm, along with super reflexes, thrusters, and super strenght.
These are deadly machines and it takes teams of AD Police officers to take them down, including using their powered armor suits. Helping the combat effectiveness of the BU-55C is their ability to wear human disguises of either sex. Genom was working on an improved model of the BU-55C, and it also offers an older cheaper model for discount. Another combat Boomer model is the BU-12B "Battle Boomer". Unlike the more humanoid BU-55C, the BU-12B is more robotic in appearance and more heavily armed. Armed with 46mm portable EM rail cannon, four-barrel rotary cannon in 12.7mm, and fearsome strenght, the BU-12B is, according to Genom press, equal to three main battle tanks. In the defensive department, the BU-12B is more heavily armored than the BU-55C and is fitted with more powerful thrusters. However, this MILSPEC Boomer is completely developed to combat and its programming and software are completely devoted to that end, making them less flexibility overall than the BU-55C. Given the show's focus on the Knight Sabers and the creator's love for BLADE RUNNER
, it hurt the overall fictional world of how the Boomers fit into Earth of 2033...it took me reading the Bubblegum Crisis: RPG
guide to understand everything.
The Bio-Mech Armies of the New Order from Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
How could we have an blogpost on military robots and robotic soldiers without mentioning the 1980's cheesy classic that is Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
? Impossible! In the backstory of the Metal Wars, humans had developed Bio-Mechs to serve as soldiers instead of humans, which was intended to end war as we knew it...yeah, that didn't happen. When Dr. Power developed "the Overmind" which was intended to wrestle control of the new robotic armies out of the hands of governments, thus ending war. However, the Overmind was twisted into an leading the Bio-Mechs to an cybernetic revolt that was called the Metal Wars.
The show picks years later with the New Order of Bio-Mechs ruling over much of the world with an army of Bio-Mechs, Bio-Dreads, and even human collaborators that are mimicking the 3rd Reich. While the majority of New Order combat robots were humanoids, they did use armored vehicles, UGV surveillance drones, and some limited airpower. For the most part, the humanoid robots seen in the 1987 series were dumb and had limited tactical intelligence, allowing Power and his group to easily defeat them. However, the more advanced and intelligent Bio-Dreads were a different matter. They were a match for Power and his super-soldiers, and if the series had gone on, the New Order would have rolled more Bio-Dreads, altering the balance of Captain Power's guerrilla campaign.
The Sentients from The Matrix Universe
One of the most boldly designed military robots in science fiction is the organic appearing Sentinels from the Matrix
universe. These squip-like killing machines are search-and-destroy units that wander the wasteland of the 22nd century Earth. Using advanced pad technology, the Sentients float along like they are weightless metal insects, but can savagely attack without mercy, slicing and dicing their victims. During the assault on Zion, thousands of Sentients poured into the docks, with cannon and rocket fire killing hundreds as the Sentients were the primary combat unit of the machine intelligence in the films.
The Ghosts from the Destiny Universe
In the backstory of the Destiny
universe, when the Traveler was marooned on Earth by either the actions of humanity, its own actions, or due to the forces of the Darkness; with its dying breath, it gave us the Ghosts. Unlike many of the other military robots on this example list, the Ghosts are non-combat and regarded to support duties to their chosen Guardian. In the gameplay, Ghosts alert the player of incoming hostiles, resurrect, hack technology, open doors, and they can hunt down certain materials on certain planets. These floating little lights of the Traveler have become the unofficial mascot of the Destiny
universe, and one of the icon symbols of the game. One of the unique elements of the Ghosts is that they behave more human than typical machine intelligence, and this could be due to their unique creation.
Next Time on FWS...
It is time to discuss another classification of naval warship that appears in science fiction all of the time: the frigate. Once again, FWS will be breaking down this real-world naval warship and talking about the space warfare equivalent. As per normal for the Ships of the Line
blogposts, we will be examining several examples from Star Trek
and attempting to dig up some more rare ones.
Near future Roles for Military Robots.ReplyDelete
First Autonomous, Operating with a minimum of Human input.
I know most would say here Air superiority, however At this point ( from now till 2030) The ability to place that much autonomy into a robot's CPU is still limited and unpopular. additionally to date the most popular Drones in service are comparative feather weights incapable of supersonic flight. Although some larger Supersonic drones have been tested they have as yet to enter service or production. Even when heavier more capable drones have come on line they are limited to those 4 missions, ISR, Strike and Logistics and now Refueling.
Unmanned Operating as a remote platform for humans
Again the same over all missions from lighter platforms although these being smaller units can now be tasked directly to onsite forces like Naval ships and Infantry
For Escort See the Ripsaw or The Crusher for a platform meant to serve APC's IFV's and Convoys like how Destroyers and frigates serve a Carrier. They are meant to supplement it's fire power. Although I list them as Autonomous It's likely that they would function in both remote and autonomous modes. For the second role Self driving convoys and lesser logistics vehicles operating without personal is a goal, getting supplies from point A to Point C with out having lost anyone at the ambush of Point B is a win.
Remote operated or semi autonomous
On the smaller scale Infantry and special mission platforms
EOD is well established by send a human to deal with an explosive device when a robot is easier to repair or dispose of. Escort Again albeit at a smaller size to augment infantry. Again see the Crusher concept from The US army FCS program. Scouting is done all the time Smaller ground drones can go into buildings and behind enemy cover to see what's happening and even attack. Fire support is a bit more interesting, a few years back the USMC was experimenting with a Unmanned Mortar system Dragon Fire II That if implemented would have offered a 120mm mortar that could have been set and forgot there was also the FCS NLOS LS that was a VLS container that could have been set up and called on for fire missions.
Perimeter Security has the XM7 spider mine system that operates on an Operator Input, Containerized weapons stations that are the classic Auto turret video game trope become reality.
And finally Logistics LS3 from Boston robotics or Lockheed Martin's MUTT or the Milrem THeMIS which is basically a equipment rack with tracks.
And As to engineering well remote Dozers and the like should be nothing new.
An excellent article about the future of automated machines in the military. The civilian world is already beginning to feel and become aware of the effects of automation and put us in quite the existential crisis. Its impact on the military would be unimaginable; especially considering the link between war, humanity and the human experience.ReplyDelete
But I am unsure if any form of Asimov's Three Laws would be possible to implement. As the youtube channel Computephile pointed out in their video addressing it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PKx3kS7f4A
BTW thanks for including that section on Forerunner Prometheans, I agree with what you said about the Knights between Halo 4 and 5 and how they really needed the make over. Although gameplay aside I still logically think they are still too weak and inept at tactical combat to be worthy of being Forerunner war machines. (a common thing about machine warriors in sci-fi in general)
An interesting blog entry there William, and especially the impact of drones on warfare and the military mindset. I have heard of stories about soldiers being emotionally attached to such drones and even offering funerals when said drone is damaged beyond repair. I'm not sure what the psychology root would be that would cause a soldier to emathize with a machine through either combat stress or a need for companionship, but I think that the chances are likely that the type of humans that would absolutely NOT want said "autonomous weapon platforms" to be mistreated would be the common infantryman or similar frontline military personnel, especially if the point is hammered that the damage done to said robot could have easily been said personnel.ReplyDelete
Anyway, on the subject of Sentry Guns ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5YftEAbmMQ ), I think someone with enough genre savy and intelligence would program into said Sentry Guns two rather important programs: IFF and Facial Recognition. IFF, similar to the "Red Asset" of the Robocop Reboot, would help lessen the chance of friendly fire if and when a soldier returns to base when the sentry gun's watch is activated (and would probably in violation of a new military code in which approaching a base during the sentry gun rotation is a bad idea for any number of reasons) so they wouldn't be immediately shot up. As for facial recognition, well I think that a smart enough insurgent would realize the whole IFF tag thing and would probably try to steal said IFF tag to bypass the sentry's targeting software. However, the facial recognition software would be fed from a central computer or a computer network deep within said base would have said soldier's face on file with that particular IFF tag. If there's a discreptency between the face and the tag, an alarm is sounded that more or less wakes everyone up, while warning the individual to not approach any closer until authorized military personnel arrive to arrest them. If they resist in any way or if there's a kill command, pop goes the insurgent. Though I'm pretty sure that such a system would be a gross violation of Asimov's First Rule of Robotics, but then again this would be equally as dumb as contemporary drone platforms.
Reply was to big..... again....Delete
As for the question of if drones make reduce or escalate conflict, lately I am of the optinion that drones make securing objectives easier since in days past when one wanted to take out a target it required very skilled boots on the ground. With a drone, it would be easier to just aim the PIPer at a target and pulling a trigger as the film Drones ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drones_(2013_film) ) had demonstrated. Though its use could actually determine if drones would have a positive or negative impact as said film has shown. Of course, drone operators can have PTSD as well as the film "Good Kill" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Kill ) had demonstrated. Heck, this entire blogpost reminded me of those two films. Though now that I think of it, is it a good idea to make autonomous weapon platforms "dumb"? As the film Screamers ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screamers_%281995_film%29 ) had shown, they could be just as muderous as a fully sapient mind simply because they're too limited to know that what they're doing is completley wrong. It would probalby be safer to make non-combat "autonomous support platforms" the AI and the combat drones human operated in which the latter would have a hard wired "kill command" if it's hacked in any way that kills the motherboard and renders it absolutely useless as a drone in the field until it's repaired at a specialized back in the homefront.
Oh, as for that whole "robots will bring an end to human-on-human warfare", I'm reminded of how during the Cold War nuclear weapons were suppose to "end warfare as we know it". Yet, the Korean War was fought very conventionally even with both sides of the Iron Curtain having access to said nuclear weapons. The same could be said of the Maxim machinegun in that it would have made so many casualties that people would not want to wage war because of such carnage, and yet we got World War I. It is my belief that autonomous weapon platforms would not only make optaining mission objectives easier, but that warfare would simply be different. Wars will still be fought and boots will have to be on the ground to hold that territory, but it would not mean that humans would be absent from those battlefields. Rather it'll be less crowded over a much larger expanse of territory since said soldiers are able to do much more with less.
Personally, I'm surprised that you didn't mention Virus ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virus_(1999_film) ). Granted, it was less "human created" and more "alien invasion", but I think it has a certain Robot Apocalypse air to it.
A long time ago, I heard a rather profound statement. I don’t know who said it, but it fits the subject.ReplyDelete
“When robots fight wars, it won’t be war; I don’t know what it will be, but it won’t be war.”
War is a political endeavor. It begins with a political decision, and ends with political accommodations. If war becomes too mechanized, the nation’s citizenry might see it as an athletic sport, and fail to force their political leaders for a resolution until it’s too late.
One example of this is Desert Shield/Desert Storm. We all saw the scud get blow out of the sky by a patriot missile, (still don’t know if its warhead was destroyed,) and “The Luckiest Man In Iraq,” (who probably was killed by the concussion.) Consider this on a much larger scale, and robots being the only casualties.
It would be a wonderful show. Nations’ technical might being brought to bear against each other until on side gets an edge, and thinks it could end the war quicker if they turned their weapons against civilians. There are historical examples of this, and it always makes the war longer and bloodier.
A very interesting & well thought out article William, as per usual :)ReplyDelete
IMHO opinion, Sci-fi is just a precursor to reality,it's just the time period to fruition that's uncertain. So although I'm not in favour of robotic/A.I. warfare becoming the norm, I see it as an inevitable outcome due to the technological path we have chosen....militarily.
The only future tech that I don't think will ever be feasible to create (albeit awesome for fellow nerds to imagine happening) will be Mech's. Not because of the perceived difficulty to build them, but because they'll present themselves as a huge target on the battlefield & be prohibitively expensive to make, maintain & transport. We all remember how Hitlers love of huge battle pieces turned out don't we.
Slightly off topic, but your view of the "mech" is very specific. That's the one big falacy I often hear about "con mech" arguments, that mechs are too big for open warfare. That is true, but as fws has posted in the past there are different sizes and classes of mechs. Urban mechs seem to be very tactical, and very probably better then tanks or other support vehicles In the very common urban combatDelete
But therein lies the question of what point does a humanoid, bipedal mecha have any distinct advantage over power armor and ultimately if a mecha at such a scale is even needed over power armor.Delete
Though personally a mecha with a large enough cockpit won't be able to go into a building without demolishing it while power armor will. There lies an element to which combined arms tactics would theoretically take hold if properly deployed and managed. But that's just me.
Urban combat mechs have been seen in Ghost in the Shell with the Fuchikoma and the VOTOM armor.ReplyDelete
Great article! I've just gotten myself started on a 1/72 scale model kit-bashing project that somehow turned itself into a "twenty minutes into the future" cyberpunk world-building exercise, and researching the role of those "mule" robots in near-future combat brought me here.ReplyDelete
Re: Robots in science fiction - I notice that you didn't mention 1965's "Dune" as an example. Robots and computers generally do not appear in the series, but in its background, the "Butlerian Jihad" resulted from some undescribed horror involving thinking machines and their soul-crushing influence on humanity, resulting in humans driving all robots and computers out of their culture, and writing a commandment against making machines in the image of human minds into their interplanetary synthetic religion. It seems that selective breeding, specialized training, surgery, and genetic engineering of human equivalents to dedicated computers and robots took the place of thinking machines in that setting, and in a way humans took over for their robot masters, replacing them as biological computers and robots. It's not a big omission, but it is an interesting alternative take on the idea.
Re: Asimov's Laws - Asimov's Laws for robots are comparable to a sort of Ten Commandments and similar ethical constructs for human beings, as a way of maintaining civilization during times of peace: we expect human beings not to kill each other, steal things, do harm to each other or to themselves, and so on under normal circumstances. War, however, is a temporary suspension of civilization under what we hope are extraordinary circumstances, and with that suspension of civilization comes the expectation that combatants will suspend normal ethics, and kill each other, take territory and material from enemies, and harm, threaten, intimidate, and terrorize potential threats into submission or inability to act. Similarly, we could not expect robots to adhere to Asimov's Laws under the same circumstances: robots in combat are not operating under civilized conditions, and are not bound by the same civilized laws that civilian robots would operate under.
Re: "...unlike a human, which side an robot is on is all a matter of programming..." - I would have to disagree: which side a human is on is all a matter of programming, as well. One need not dig very deeply into history to see examples of that at work, such as the "free-booter" mercenary armies which historically fought on all sides of their wars, depending on who paid the highest price, and on militant religious orders dedicated to fighting under their given religious banners against other religions or enemies, and of course the relatively recent developments of nationalist armies and armies formed under the banners of various ideological "-isms": whether the programming involves money, xenophobia, nationality, race, religion, ideology, or even something as arbitrary as gang colors or team uniforms or shirts-vs-skins, the side that a human takes is definitely a matter of some form of programming - and in fact, a frighteningly basic, primitive, and easy-to-access form of programming, at that!
In any case, a very well thought-out article, and I enjoyed reading it, and look forward to exploring the rest of this site!
As an interesting aside, regarding civilization and the ability to turn our human equivalent of "Asimov's Laws" on and off:Delete
We find that it's very difficult for human beings to change their programming, and convert from civilians to soldiers: war changes humans and tends to break us psychologically; many, perhaps most, soldiers have a difficult time abandoning civilization and doing horrible things in the name of war, and then re-integrating back into civilization afterward - the experience is traumatic. That is a human part of warfare, and perhaps it is one which keeps warfare from being even worse than it already is... or, perhaps, it is one that drives warfare into an even darker direction than it needs to be.
I wonder how that dynamic would change when it comes to robots, who could basically switch from civilization to barbarism and back with a simple push of a button? That, perhaps, is the biggest question and danger involving trust between human beings and robots: human programming is a life-long, complicated, and delicate yet resilient thing that takes a long time and a lot of trouble to alter; a robot's personality, for better and for worse, is easily changed on the fly and instantly with a few keystrokes, or with a change of intangible variables. Robots introduce a different emotional dynamic into wars, in any event: on one hand, robots do not suffer the emotional and psychological trauma that the savagery and horror of war produces in human soldiers, and robots lack the sort of inhibition against that sort of savagery and horror that civilized humans have been programmed with; on the other hand, robots also lack the complicated instincts and lines of thinking that drive some human soldiers into raping, looting, and sadism against their victims, or the insights into human psychology that make it possible and advantageous for human soldiers to inflict psychological horrors onto their enemies to break their will to fight.
At the risk of sounding like one of the androids from the "Alien" film series admiring the xenomorphs, there is a certain purity, simplicity, and efficiency to a combat robot's identify-point-click-and-repeat-until-ordered-to-stand-down mentality which human soldiers will, for better or worse, will lack for as long as we remain human.
This was an awesome article! Kudos!! You have my respects.ReplyDelete
Robots GK-Robots could communicate with each other;robots general knowledge (GK) is very excellent. Robots might facilitate to get over harm or closure through necessary operations together with changes of batteries or renewal of different kinds of energy supply;Robots might do the manufacture of other robots from exploring, collecting, transporting and process raw materials to collecting the ultimate robots.ReplyDelete
William, do you ever read a sci-fi book called Tin Men by Christopher Golden? Because in the book, soldiers control robots via neurotechnology to achieve this.ReplyDelete
I'm not sure what you think of soldiers remotely control robots through neuroscience or motion-based technology, but that concept of people controlling robots indirectly seem pretty interesting to me . . . in terms of combat and support operations, although I do like people controlling robots through motion-based technology. So what do you think of it
Considering what a macross fan you are I’m surprised you missed macross plus. One of the story arcs is about the development of an autonomous drone fighter. These fighters are seen again as slaves to a recon variant plane in the macross frontier series, where they seem to fill the role of scouts, and of interceptors for things manned pilots just can’t dogfight.ReplyDelete
While in macross plus discussion time is given to the ethical concerns of drones (this show being from 1994 iirc) by the macross frontier series of this past decade they’ve just become another tool integrated into the sms - the military contractors the show revolves around.
The sad thing is I've never seen the original Japanese Macross...grew up with ROBOTECH and it was years before I realized the truth behind Harmony Gold's epic series. The only Macross work I watched and owned was Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: Lovers Again. Based on what you said...I need to watch thisReplyDelete
Oh man... from what I’ve read about your history with robotech it mirrors mine. When I first started watching plus it was ok, but when the sdf-1 first appeared onscreen and those grav generators began to spin up it was like coming home. You need to check it out. The dub of plus is really good and not that hard to find since it was actually released here. Frontier you’ll have to watch subbed and probably illegally thanks to harmony gold tho ;) i’d skip macross 7, and if you watch zero know it’s was retconned as an “in-universe movie”. Wait to watch delta until after frontier. I can’t wait to hear what you think about themReplyDelete