Two questions: Are military robots necessary? And, should we fear them? While there are no right answers, two reasonable ones might be Yes, and Not Yet, respectively. With the recent use of a weaponized robot in Dallas, Tx., this topic has been forced into the spotlight again.
Robots first came into being in a Czech film in the 1920s. They were human-looking, and scary from the get-go. More a few hit movies, plus a host of B-grade movies, have portrayed robots as having a single goal in mind – to kill people. Today, various pneumatic robots, most of which do not have a human appearance, are under development, and are being tested for a wide variety of military and peaceful reasons.
Robots Can Kill – With Human Guidance.
The military uses robotics to kill people, drones and unmanned aircraft being two examples; and it has been doing so for some time. Those robots are controlled by humans; sometimes by soldiers on the ground, and at other times by controllers safely tucked away in cubicles a few thousand miles distant.
The military also uses robots to save lives rather than to take them. These robots, which are or can sniff out mines, load trucks, carry the wounded from the field of battle, or deliver medicines or supplies in combat zones, are completely ethical in the ways in which they are used.
A highly-publicized use of robotics took place recently in Dallas when a robot was deployed to take out a sniper. Although this “non-military” use of a robot to kill might seem to be a cause for alarm, the sniper had already killed several police officers, was in a position to cause harm to others, and threatened to set off a bomb. It should be noted that the robot was at all times under the control of professional law enforcement personnel, and was deployed for the purpose of saving lives.
Military robots may outwardly appear to consist mainly of electronic control systems and servomechanisms, but pneumatics also plays a key role, and for several reasons. Pneumatic robots can operate in environments that would destroy electronic circuitry and servomechanisms. Two of the more common uses of pneumatics is in devices that are used for gripping, and in robotic arms; but these are subjects for a future blog.
It’s worth mentioning however, that there is in work a “soft” robotic arm that is capable of lifting 4 times its own weight. If this arm accidentally hits you it, will softly caress you, rather than knock you through the wall.
A Robotic Arms Race and a Looming Danger
To return to the initial two questions; military robots are necessary. There is a robotics arms race in progress, and we do not want to be left behind. As far as robots being something to fear, it depends partly on who is controlling them, and partly on the use of fail-safe devices that can be actuated if a robot suddenly goes off on its own way. It also depends upon how the technological advances taking place in artificial intelligence will be applied.
Artificial intelligence was looked upon as a promising technology in the 1960s and 70s, but progress was slow, and it fell out of favor until recently. Today, AI is all the rage, which brings up some questions. Since AI-driven machines appear in some instances to be approaching human intellect, what will happen if these machines begin to out think us, and even attempt to outsmart and disobey us? Is this the looming danger that lies ahead? It could happen – but don’t hold your breath quite yet.
AI-driven machines can be programmed to learn. They can learn well enough to beat chess grand-masters, and recently, the world’s Go titleholder. Today, AI-driven military robots, as well as “dumb” military robots, are more and more likely to be influenced by happenings in the commercial and education sectors. The military invested heavily in robotics in the past, but since most of the present development is taking place in businesses, factories, and classrooms , the line separating commercial and military use is becoming somewhat fuzzy.
SMC Pneumatics USA, powered by Orange Coast Pneumatics is a National Elite distributor for the SMC Corporation of America. SMC offers 11,300 general pneumatics products, with over 560,000 variations, engineered to meet applications in every sector of the market. From Semiconductor to Automotive, Medical to Petroleum, SMC's products are designed to fit your unique requirements.