War Dogs Military Robots
Let’s talk about strapping guns to the backs of robots. When MSCHF did it with Spot back in February, it was a thought experiment, art exhibit, and a statement about where society might be headed with autonomous robotics. And most importantly, of course, it was a paintball gun. Boston Dynamics clearly wasn’t thrilled with the message it was sending, noting:
Today we learned that an art group is planning a spectacle to draw attention to a provocative use of our industrial robot, Spot. To be clear, we condemn the portrayal of our technology in any way that promotes violence, harm, or intimidation.
It’s precisely the sort of thing the company tries to get out in front of. After decades of killer-robot science-fiction, it doesn’t take much to make people jump any time an advanced robot enters the picture. It’s the automaton version of Rule 34 (in staunch defiance of Asimov’s First Law of Robotics): If a robot exists, someone has tried to weaponize it.
As I’ve said in this very column, I’m glad we’re having these conversations now, and I’m happy people are skeptical when the NYPD trots out a branded version of Spot. I also think it’s important to note, for example, that police departments have been using robots for years to perform dangerous tasks like bomb detection. A majority of us would probably agree that saving people from exploding is a good use for a robot.
I’m glad Boston Dynamics continues to vocalize its opposition toward using the robot for harm (what constitutes intimidation, when it comes to headless quadrupedal robots, is another conversation altogether). Spot’s makers — along with a wide swath of the robotics industry — cut their teeth on DARPA-funded projects. I’d say there’s a pretty big gulf between building a robotic pack mule and a mobile weapon, but these are precisely the sorts of things you need to bake into a mission statement.
For this Ghost Robotics dog on display at the Association of the U.S. Army convention in D.C. this week, I’d say intimidation is probably the best-case scenario. I’ll let the rifle’s maker, SWORD Defense Systems, speak for themselves here:
The SWORD Defense Systems Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle (SPUR) was specifically designed to offer precision fire from unmanned platforms such as the Ghost Robotics Vision-60 quadruped. Featuring safe, chamber, clear, and fire capabilities that allows for safe and reliable deployment of the weapon system – providing the operator an ability to load and safe the weapon at a distance.
War Dogs Military Robots