Technology tends to advance a lot quicker when the military takes an interest – that’s hardly a secret. Many technologies that are indispensable these days found their beginnings in military use – even the Internet you are using right now to read this.
As such, it’s no surprise to learn that robotics is of course, also interesting to military forces all over the globe. Research and development of all sorts is backed and performed by the military or their contractors, and often, governments themselves also pay for part of this research – this was just recently the case when UK army robotics received a staggering £66 million boost right amidst the confusion that is Brexit.
Investments, acceleration, and incubation
British defense secretary Gavin Williamson committed £66m to fast-track projects. Those projects include research on new mini-drones that are providing troops with a bird’s eye view, to allow them to maneuver on the battlefield, systems to fit army vehicles with remote control devices so unmanned vehicles can explore ahead of manned ones and autonomous logistics vehicles that can deploy vital supplies to warzones without endangering the lives of troops.
On the other side of the world, the US is one of the leading names in military robotics of course, with the budget to match it. Their latest pet project are robot soldiers – though this technology is plagued with issues still and is in its infancy, it’s also being driven ahead quickly – the possibility of reducing human casualties while also increasing efficiency and decreasing things like supply cost makes robotic soldiers an incredibly attractive option.
Is it good to be a leader in weaponization?
In 2017, Russia was declared a ‘leader in weaponized robots’ by Business Insider – the country is advancing its efforts to build unmanned ground vehicles as well as autonomous vehicles and weaponry.
It’s worth noting that despite the many countries around the world that support and finance robotics to this end, there are also voices that warn of the potential risks, and the possibilities of abuse as well. These voices include people like Elon Musk – arguably one of the most in-tune people when it comes to technology – and Stephen Hawking. Musk has gone so far as to warn that AI, in particular, could lead to a Third World War.
AI and robotics are inseparable at this point – much of the robotics in use now require at least some form of AI to operate, and even remote-controlled vehicles and the like tend to have autopilot features of some form – in other words, AI. Whether or not the danger posed by AI and robotics is as large as its critics claim remains to be seen of course, but with military spending in the sector increasing constantly, it’s not entirely unreasonable to think that sooner or later things might go wrong – for now, the common man (and woman) can only continue to watch in awe as the nations leading in technological warfare continue to push the boundaries of what is possible – and what is ethical.
YouTube: Russian Robot URAN-9 – УРАН-9. PART-1
Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Jordy Meow. The image in the middle of the article has been done by Hitori Sushi.
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