Sunday, February 22, 2009 at 8:50PM
As the public waits in breathless anticipation of the next Terminator movie, the Office of Naval Research has been studying the likelihood of a real robot uprising.
You can read the full report here, but let me share with you one of my favorite tidbits.
In April 2008, several TALON SWORDS units—mobile robots armed with machine guns—in Iraq were reported to be grounded for reasons not fully disclosed, though early reports claim the robots, without being commanded to, trained their guns on ‘friendly’ soldiers [e.g., Page, 2008]; and later reports denied this account but admitted there had been malfunctions during the development and testing phase prior to deployment [e.g., Sofge, 2008]. The full story does not appear to have yet emerged, but either way, the incident underscores the public’s anxiety—and the military’s sensitivity—with the use of robotics on the battlefield.).
My ED-209 nightmares from childhood aside, I know that present AI technology is a long long long way from posing any meaningful risk to our society as a whole outside kind accidents that have marked all forms of industrial progress. Still, I do hope that a lifetime of movies featuring rebellious robots has given us all a healthy dose of caution, if not paranoia, in this particular area of technological exploration.