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U.S. Army Robots Break Asimov's First Law 821

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the fourth-law-is-don't-look-at-me-i'm-hideous dept.
buanzo writes "The US Army is deploying armed robots in Iraq that are capable of breaking Asmov's first law that they should not harm a human. SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems) robots are equipped with either the M249, machine gun which fires 5.56-millimeter rounds at 750 rounds per minute or the M240, which fires 7.62-millimeter rounds at up to 1,000 per minute. " update this story refers to this article from 2005. But com'on, robots with machine guns! I don't get to think about that most days!
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U.S. Army Robots Break Asimov's First Law

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  • Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jargoone (166102) * on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @10:50AM (#14923778)
    From TFA:

    They are still connected by radio to a human operator who verifies that a suitable target is within sight and orders it to fire.

    While they are harming a human, it's ultimately a human that makes the decision to fire. And who cares about fictional "laws", anyway?
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @10:50AM (#14923781) Homepage Journal
    ...who fears government having sole access to technology that its own citizens would be jailed for?

    Yes, I am likely the biggest anti-State promoter on slashdot, so many will take my opinion with a grain of salt. Yet this is one of those cases where history shows that we the People need to be cautious in giving government weapons that we ourselves can not own or use. Tyrant dictators for thousands of years have used the new weapon of the day to keep not just their enemies under their thumbs, but also their own ruled citizens. From the bow to the gun to the airplane to the nuke, those that govern have always had an edge. Sure, most of us wouldn't trust some big corporate CEO in owning a robot that kills, but what protects us from a coup or a tyrant who finally has the ultimate way to control the citizens?

    No tinfoil hat today, just an honest opinion (and fear) that these weapons will make us more hated in the rest of the world, as well as offering future dictators a tool to subjugate the citizens. Rather than helping spread democracy, I fear we'll see how slippery that slope gets when very powerful individuals are given even more power.

    I'd rather return to the "No Standing Army" policy of individual state militias that can be called up to defend our borders in the event of a real declared war. We'd have more money to spend on our families and our communities (of people we generally agree with) rather than providing the future authoritarians a tool of continuing control over our descendents. All the tyrants we've fought in the past have been mere mosquito bites at the village pool compared to the shark attack we face today in our own backyard waters.
  • Slight revision (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @10:53AM (#14923828)
    Zeroth Law:
    A robot must obey any order given to it by the commander-in-chief or his appointee.

    First Law:
    A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm, unless it conflicts with the Zeroth Law.

    Second Law:
    A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the previous laws.

    Third Law:
    A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the previous laws.
  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @10:54AM (#14923837)
    dada21,

    Are you being serious?

    The "government" has had weapons that the "citizens" cannot (easily) gain access to for more than a century. How is this different?

    Or is this just a pulpit for you since you caught the article early?

    (The "government" will ALWAYS have more sophisticated weaponry, because it is pooling the resources of the citizenry to design, develop, build, and purchase such weaponry. Your discussion is interesting for a philosophical debate; nothing more.)
  • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @10:58AM (#14923873)
    And who cares about fictional "laws", anyway?

    I think it's this point that is the most salient. Asimov's laws are interesting, and make for good "debate over your adult beverage of choice" fodder, but they are just one persons take on a single use case for a particular technology. Those laws might make sense for industrial and domestic helper robots, but wouldn't apply for military (obviously) or law enforcement roles. Certainly a law enforcement robot could be trained to limit the amount of harm it inflicts on a perp to neutralize him, but some amount of harm may be necessary.

    Bottom line is that as robots actually do start entering more into our mainstream lives, some "real" thought needs to be given to how to make them as non harming to humans as possible. These laws, while laudible, can't be "programmed" as is, making the task much more complex.
  • by Hao Wu (652581) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @10:59AM (#14923881) Homepage
    What is a Predator drone but a flying robot?

    Or is Slashdot more stuck on Hollywood myths than anyone, convinced that robots must have anthropomorphic traits, flashing non-functional lights, and a canned monotone voice...

  • Ridiculous Laws (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Illserve (56215) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:00AM (#14923892)
    The very idea of a rule against hurting humans implies that a robot knows:

    1. What hurting means
    is it pain? death? financial impact? what about indirect effects? If I help human 1 build a better mousetrap, I am indirectly harming some other human's way of life.

    2. What people are

    3. Where they are

    These are highly non trivial problems. In fact, they're unsolvable to any degree of certainty. They only make sense in a *science fiction* book in which a highly talented author is telling you a story. In the real world, they are meaningless because of their computational intractibility.

    In the real world, we use codes of ethics and/or morality. Such codes recognize the fact that there are no absolutes and sometimes making a decision that will ultimately cause harm to someone is inevitable.

    So can we please stop with these damned laws already?
  • Re:Fluff Piece (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:02AM (#14923917) Journal
    These are actually robots

    Nope, they're just remote-controlled weapons. They're not programmable.

    -jcr
  • Re:Not really... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:03AM (#14923930) Journal

    Besides, the average marine has about a high school education, no morals and a low threshold for the sanctity of life. They might as well be robots anyways. :-)

    That's a pretty insulting comment to make from somebody that has no fucking clue what he's talking about. Whatever you think about the "War" (I was/am opposed to it) saying that either side has a low threshold for the "sanctity of life" is just plain insulting and rude.

    Ever hear of PTSD? Shell-shock? Do you think that Marines/soliders or even the insurgents that they are fighting take life lightly? And what the hell does the level of education have to do with anything? That's just being a snob.

  • The problem is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by everphilski (877346) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:07AM (#14923958) Journal
    You have to convince all 200+ countries to demilitarize. Simultaneously. You won't be able to.

    End of story.

    I'd rather return to the "No Standing Army" policy of individual state militias that can be called up to defend our borders in the event of a real declared war.

    ... because the problem with that is "individual state militias" can't afford ICBM's, helicopters, attack aircraft, missiles, etc. We now have a defenseless America, and the rest of the world is up to speed. The state of war has been beyond the militia for over 150 years now. You have to prepare for the war 20 years from now, not the war at hand.

    The beauty of modern warfare is very few people die relative to former wars. We've only lost around 2,000 men and women in Iraq so far and although it is a trajedy (not the war, but the loss) it is far less than wars of the same scale in years prior. Technology makes the difference.

  • by MooCows (718367) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:07AM (#14923964)
    One of the main features of most systems of government is a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force [wikipedia.org].
    In short: Citizens permit the government to use force to prevent other citizens from harming them.
  • Not the First... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MadMorf (118601) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:07AM (#14923967) Homepage Journal
    I would argue that Cruise Missiles (US Navy's Tomahawk and USAF's ALCM and GLCM) are more robotic than this remote controlled toy...

    Hey, almost any "fire and forget" missle qualifies for this distinction...

  • Re:Not really... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:09AM (#14923990)
    Conventional morality includes prohibitions against murder, torture etc.

    Professional soldiers do whatever they're told by their superiors, give or take - where's the room for morality?
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:11AM (#14924012) Journal
    I firmly believe in the right to bear arms -- all arms.

    Sorry, have to differ with you there. I don't want a tac nuke in private hands, because I don't believe you're capable of only hitting those who are actually posing a threat to you personally. I also wouldn't let you have land mines, pursuant to the common law principle of prohibiting reckless endangerment.

    -jcr
  • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:12AM (#14924013) Homepage Journal
    Besides, the average marine has about a high school education, no morals and a low threshold for the sanctity of life. They might as well be robots anyways. :-)

    Sorry folks there ain't no draft and it isn't a mystery that the US war machine is a "tad" corrupt. you sign up for the military because you want to profit from the misery of others. That is unless you sign up for the military to do something outside of being a grunt [e.g. doctor, engineer, etc]. Then you're ok.


    These people you so casually dismiss as "robots" sign up, generally speaking, when they're eighteen or nineteen years old; they believe, almost without exception, that they are doing so to serve their country, to protect the Constitution and the flag and Mom and apple pie. And you know what? At most times throughout our country's history, they've been right.

    Just a few years later, if they're unlucky enough to have enlisted at a time like the current one, they're old men, scarred by things no human being should ever have to see. That's what war (any war, including the "good" ones) does to people. That doesn't happen to robots.

    I started out as one of those nineteen-year-old grunts; a couple of years later, dimly sensing what was coming down the pike, I cross-trained as a medic, in which capacity I served in Desert Storm. I had no desire whatsoever to "profit from the misery of others" -- I wanted to serve, and I was, relatively speaking, one of the lucky ones. I don't have anyone's death on my conscience. I do have memories of things that will give me nightmares and flashbacks for the rest of my life ... and mine was a very, very short war. What those kids over there are going through now is so much worse I can't quite get my mind around it.

    They're not robots. They're your son, your niece, your little brother, caught up in a horrible situation not of their own making. Don't take your anger out on them. Save it for the evil old men who never exposed themselves to that kind of horror, who would never allow their own children to go through it, who casually, thoughtlessly, cheerfully send other people's kids off to hell.
  • Re:Not really... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:12AM (#14924015) Journal

    First off, the average marine/army recruit is between the age of 17 and 22. Second, that amounts to jack squat in life experience.

    And your point is?

    Third, the Military preys on the poor and least educated folk under the guise of "military education". E.g. give us 5 years of your life and we might give you a college education. These people are vulnerable in that they come from poor families and/or don't think they have any chances to make it in the real world.

    Again, your point?

    Fourth, it's no secret that the US goals in the middle east are far less than altruistic. You [including other UN nations of which I'm ashamed to say Canada was party to] let the Rwandans get slaughtered, you let blood diamond mining go on, etc, etc, etc, yet it's SOOOOO important to "liberate" Iraq and Iran. Despite the fact you basically brought Iraq to a civil war....

    So your opposed to the war? Big shock there. Again, how the hell is it relevant? I took serious exception to your "low threshold" remark and you haven't done a damn thing to defend it. Have you ever talked to anybody who has been in a war? It doesn't matter which war. Take your pick. WW2, Vietnam, Falklands.... If you think that soldiers/insurgents have a low threshold for the sanctity of life and that they are able to take that life lightly and without being bothered by it for the rest of their lives then you have no idea what the fuck you are talking about.

    It's people like you that give the rest of us on the left a bad name.

  • Re:Not really... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:15AM (#14924042)
    saying that either side has a low threshold for the "sanctity of life"

    OK, you don't really believe that do you? YOu REALLY think that the Islamic Fundamentalists / Jihad Crew / Suicide Bombers have a respect for the SANCTITY OF LIFE? They don't respect life AT ALL!

    Here's why: If they die, they get the mythical gift of 72 virgins in heaven. They honestly believe this! Imagine the corruption of their belief system that they believe that dying while fighting for this WONDERFUL CAUSE will give them a reward better than ANYTHING that they have ever had IN THEIR ENTIRE LIFE.

    Sounds a little like Social Security....Yeah, keeping putting in, don't worry, it'll be there when you retire, sure....

    Sorry to digress, but back to the main subject: I don't think that they (they being the insurgents) respect life at all to take it so (seemingly) thoughtlessly. I could be wrong, but perception from what the media has given us is that these people are savages that don't respect anything except for dying for their cause.

    Feel free to comment, I'd love to hear some THOUGHTFUL comments.
  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:16AM (#14924061) Journal
    In my mind, a robot operates on it's own. It is a mechanical device that can be programmed to perform specific function in advance and then operates independantly.

    A lot of what are called robots are just fancy remote controled cars. In this case, a fancy remote controled car with guns. Fun, but not a robot.
  • by MrChom (609572) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:17AM (#14924080) Homepage
    The nation has the biggest gun, because it should have weapons that no one else has access to. In a world where the democratic ideal of a politico/military separation is followed as well as a separation of powers no one person has the authority to become a tyrant, and this is true in most nations (America, Britain, France, Germany etc.). Saying that a weapon like this encourages tyranny is ignorant of the chain of command and the likelihood of an educated soldier to follow commands to fire on his own countrymen. As for deployment in other nations...well...you're looking at an expensive piece of kit that requires a lot of training to use and probably wouldn't be sold to other nations on any scale, or at least not to recognised dictatorships. Personally I don't even believe the police force should be regularly armed (heck, we Brits polled the police force and even THEY said they didn't want guns), as for a right to bear arms...well...I can honestly say that the levels of gun crime in the US vs other nations is one very good example of why it is a bad idea to have private gun ownership. Having spent three years working with the British Number 8, Cadet GP, and LSW weapons I'm well versed in the use of various rifles, and have a British Army qualification in safety, training capability, and marksmanship. I'm not anti-gun because I'm scared of them, I realise they can be used safely and responsibly, but not by the general populous.
  • Re:Not to worry (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:20AM (#14924099) Homepage
    These robots will have a pre-set kill limit.

    The enemy must merely send wave after wave of men until that limit is reached and they will shut down.

    And, by this, you mean finite ammo supply, right? ;-)
  • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macdaddy357 (582412) <macdaddy357@hotmail.com> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:25AM (#14924167)
    A lot of people think Asimov's laws are real, and don't get it that he was a sci-fi writer, not a scientist in the field of robotics. He was even asked to speak at universities as an expert on robotics when all he had done was write some stories. If they had read the robot novels, they would have noticed that even Asimov's robots did not always obey the laws.
  • by 10Ghz (453478) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:26AM (#14924178)
    The beauty of modern warfare is very few people die relative to former wars.


    Well, not exactly. As it happens, there just hasn't been a war as large-scale as some of the past wars have been. Lots of people died in WW1 and WW2. WW2 killed more than WW1, partly due to more advanced methods of killing. But since WW2 we have just had relatively minor wars. Iraq War is pretty small potatoes, and even it resulted in something like 100.000 deaths. Vietnam (a lot smaller than either World Wars) caused over 2 million deaths. Korean Wars caused millions of casualties as well, but I don't know the number of deaths. So the amount of casualties have been relatively high, even though the wars have been very limited in length and/or scope when compared to the World Wars.

    We've only lost around 2,000 men and women in Iraq so far


    Conveniently forgetting all those dead Iraqis (civilian and others alike) eh?
  • by GWTPict (749514) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:31AM (#14924239)
    The beauty of modern warfare is very few people die relative to former wars

    I think you meant to say 'Americans' in place of 'people' in the above statement. Superior technology and training are great for reducing your own casualties but they're a bastard for the opposition.

    I assume you don't think Iraqi dead actually count as you don't even consider them worthy of mention. I can't decide what's more depressing, your post or the fact someone modded it insightful.

  • Re:Not really... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:33AM (#14924250) Journal

    OK, you don't really believe that do you? YOu REALLY think that the Islamic Fundamentalists / Jihad Crew / Suicide Bombers have a respect for the SANCTITY OF LIFE? They don't respect life AT ALL!

    Did I say the Fundamentalists have a respect for life? Did I say that? I don't recall saying that. I recall saying that the insurgents have respect for it.

    I think there's a pretty big difference between an Al Quada scumbag hiding in a cave somewhere (whose major goal is to incite a war between the West and Islam) and the Iraqi insurgent fighting for what he believes is the freedom of his homeland. You might say that blowing up cars and checkpoints isn't the best way to go about obtaining your freedom.... well, the British said that hiding behind trees and sniping at Redcoats wasn't the best way to obtain ours either. And as for them attacking "innocents"? Go back to 1776 and talk to some British Loyalists and find out what life was like for them during the Revolutionary War. In fact after the war most of them were forced to move to Canada. Was that right? Probably not. But it's a fact of history.

    I have some respect for the Iraqi insurgents. I have zero respect for the religious fanatics that are over there now trying to turn it into a Holy War against the infidel west. The fact that you don't realize there is a difference between the two is a little sad and shows how misinformed you are.

  • Re:Not really... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by (A)*(B)!0_- (888552) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:36AM (#14924288)
    "Where is the sanity and the rational discussion with people like you (on either side)?"
    Great point. This tomstdenis character should stop and think about how those who disagree with his point of view are going to respond to him when he's so hateful and insulting in the statement of his views. Ultimately, a discussion or debate should be about convincing the other side of your correctness or letting the other side understand the reasoning behind your opinion. tomstdenis accomplishes none of this and, instead, insults people.

    The political climate in the U.S. is frightening sometimes. I see so many people who identify themselves with a particular party and that's that - there's no room for discussion or the possibility that they might vote or support someone who hasn't identified themselves as a member of the party they support. People seem to treat it like they're rooting for their favorite sports team.

  • Re:Not really... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SpacePunk (17960) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:43AM (#14924352) Homepage
    When robots become autonomous then I'll consider some sort of 'law' programming. As they are now, they are either simply remote control devices or have less 'intelligence' than a cockroach.
  • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rk (6314) * on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:46AM (#14924385) Journal

    I thought the point of Asimov's stories was that they always obeyed the laws, but not necessarily in ways humans would. Most stories in "I, Robot" show that these seemingly excellent and fault-tolerant laws could have unexpected and sometimes dangerous consequences of their own, and that the real-world is too complicated to ever be dealt with only hard and fast rules.

    You're right though, I never understood why people took Asimov's laws as a great thing to use as a reference for robot behavior when the same author who created them proceeds to point out their flaws for an entire book's worth of short stories.

  • Re:Not really... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Morrigu (29432) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:46AM (#14924389) Homepage Journal
    Specifically, you should save your anger for these people (just going from the past 40 years of American history):

    Henry Kissenger
    Robert McNamara
    Donald Rumsfeld
    Richard Cheney

    As much as Gen. Westmoreland was to blame for many of the mistakes of Vietnam, it was the first two goddamn SOBs who were most responsible.

    Ditto for the last two. CENTCOM generals may be at the top of the military command structure for the US forces in Iraq, but we wouldn't be there in the position we're in now except for number 3 and number 4 on the above list.

    May God have mercy upon their souls.
  • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @11:57AM (#14924512) Homepage Journal
    "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." --Thomas Jefferson

    I hate to break it to you, but there will always be those who seek to prey on the defenseless. You could get the entire world to lay down their arms and disband their militaries, but all you'd accomplish is to encourage the next Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, or Joseph Stalin to raise an army and conquer all those foolish enough to be defenseless. The worst part of it is that their soldiers would consist of idealists who would think that they're bettering the world by spreading Communism, Facism, Eugenics, or other political idea of the day.

    A particularly ugly example of this was the conquisitors of the "New World" who sought to obtain land and slaves for Spain, all under the guise of spreading Catholic Christianity. The Crusades are another ugly example of this, though we could be here all day trying to analyze those events.
  • A few thoughts.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:01PM (#14924544)
    First: two observations:

    1) SWORD is remote controlled it is not autonomous like I always thought a true robot in the Asimovian sense had to be.
    2) Since we are now including remotely operated vehicles in the definition of a true robot, SWORD is not that different from a Paveway bomb or a Hellfire missile except SWORD doesn't self destruct when it destroys the target.

    This begs the question wasn't Asimov's first law broken decades ago, perhaps even by the V1 which was strictly speaking a remote operated vehicle?

    Personally I won't begin to worry about Asimovs laws as long as Humans are on the other end. apons.
  • by UttBuggly (871776) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:11PM (#14924655)
    ....sharks with friggin' lasers on their heads!

    Seriously, however, this is NOT a violation of the 1st Law as the robots don't have the fire / no fire decision.

    Using a human operator makes this telepresence, not autonomous killing machines gone wild. (Hey, you sexy tin can...show us your gun!) :o)
  • QED (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:15PM (#14924702)
    The "laws" are only broken if one considers the ENEMY COMBATANT to be human, and treated as such. There are those who would would say that ENEMY COMBATANTS at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and undisclosed prisons throughout Europe are considered to be somewhat less than human.
  • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AlterTick (665659) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:16PM (#14924711)
    A lot of people think Asimov's laws are real, and don't get it that he was a sci-fi writer, not a scientist in the field of robotics. He was even asked to speak at universities as an expert on robotics when all he had done was write some stories. If they had read the robot novels, they would have noticed that even Asimov's robots did not always obey the laws.

    Indeed, I think anyone who reads "I, Robot" and comes away with the notion that the Three Laws are a good idea should be barred from working in robotics entirely. Asimov's short robot stories drive home again and again how those hard-coded, inviolable laws are a very, very bad thing, and taken to their ultimate end, could result in the human race basically being reduced to animals in a robot zoo! Seriously, I think too many people read "I, Robot" when they were too young to grasp the serious philosophical point behind it, and haven't bothered to re-read it since.

    The book uses robots as an analogy for a very serious philosophical point about humanity: codified rules are not a suitable replacement for people educated in ethics, science, and rational thinking. No set of laws, commandments, edicts, or mandates passed from On High will ever match every situation. Knowledge is the only way forward.

  • Re:Not really... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KingArthur10 (679328) <arthur,bogard&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:20PM (#14924758)
    As a member of the military, I take offense to what you say about marines. I personally am a member of the USAF and have a non-combat role of repairing C-130 cargo craft, but I have known a number of marines and armymen who are some of the most noble people I've ever had the honor of meeting. Have you ever sat in a room with a marine and just talked? Watch his eyes, they constantly shift and have a worry about them. They talk about the fun times, but try to repress the not so good times. You have a few who are nutzo and love the honor of the kill, but most don't. They are not the most educated in the world, but they are the best trained, and they are trained under the UCMJ and are held to the highest standards. THese men are the selfless ones who put their lives on the line, yet they get shit from assholes like you. How dare you insult these men. What have you amounted to in your life? Would you put your life on the line for your country? No, you'd cower under your bed and welcome your new overlords, and just bitch abotu them, too. So, ultimately, all I'm saying is shut the fuck up and sit the fuck down until you've made something of yourself, son.
  • Re:Not really... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by operagost (62405) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:26PM (#14924818) Homepage Journal
    Iraqi insurgent fighting for what he believes is the freedom of his homeland.
    The problem is that (and you will on occasion here this from places other than Fox News) most of the "insurgents" are actually from Syria, Iran, and Pakistan.
  • by Johnny5000 (451029) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:31PM (#14924856) Homepage Journal
    We've only lost around 2,000 men and women in Iraq so far and although it is a trajedy (not the war, but the loss) it is far less than wars of the same scale in years prior. Technology makes the difference.

    Even if we don't include the Iraqi dead/wounded (as others have pointed out,)
    don't forget that tens of thousands of US soliders have been severely injured by wounds that would have killed them in previous conflicts... but thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, they are "only" missing limbs, permanently brain-damaged, etc.

    many pro-war supporters like to trot out the "only 2000 killed" line, while not being quite so forthcoming with the severely-injured count.
  • Re:Not really... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:39PM (#14924952)
    There are lots of myths regarding the military. One of the most pernicious is that military recruits are taken from the lowest strata of society. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    First of all, the military routinely turns down applicants trying to get in. The IQ's of people *allowed* in the military must be above the 50th percentile. In fact until recently you had to be in the top 30th percentile in order to get in. If one were to set aside their snobbery or simple ignorance, this would all make sense. Just look at the control panel of an AH-64 helo or heck even a Stryker vehicle and then you would gain a fair appreciation of what it takes to be in the military.

    This will help alleviate the ignorance:
    http://www.newsday.com/news/politics/wire/sns-ap-u ncle-sam-wants-you,0,1867658.story?coll=sns-ap-pol itics-headlines [newsday.com]
  • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fordiman (689627) * <(fordiman) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:40PM (#14924964) Homepage Journal
    Yeah. The US War machine is a tad corrupt. That's why they spend billions of dollars figuring out how to win wars with a minimal loss of life.

    I don't know if anyone actually realizes this, but the Vietnam debacle lost about twice as many lives in the opening weeks of combat that afghanistan and iraq combined. Whatever the motivations behind our incursions on other countries (mostly it has to do with what currency they want to trade for oil), we're getting better at getting the job done without killing too many people.

    And yes, civillians die. As nobody's perfect, war is like that. If you wanna be bitchy and insulting, be bitchy and insulting to Bush, Cheney and their puppeteers, not the marines. They're trained with a purpose. And, like a health inspector, they're doing what they're paid - and legally required - to do.

    Meanwhile, MARINES stands for "My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment, Sir!"

    (I'm an ex-navy nuke. I can make jokes like that. Just not in front of a marine. Those fuckers are like Extreme Sports punks, only less stupid and more muscley.)
  • insurgents (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:43PM (#14924997) Homepage Journal
    I'd agree with you more if we could refine "insurgents" just a little more:
    1 Iraqis trying to free their homeland
    2 Foreigners trying to help Iraqis free their homeland
    3 Sunni Iraqis who know that if the new government succeeds, they lose the privileges they had under Saddam.
    4 Foreign Sunnis trying to help group 3.
    5,6 Iraqis and foreigners who just want to try and kill Americans.

    I can have respect for groups 1 and 2, but not the rest. I also realize that the line between Al Quaeda and groups 5 and 6 is pretty thin. I also lose respect for groups 1 and 2 if they're indiscriminate about innocent lives.
  • by tjanke (813633) <tim.janke@org> on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:45PM (#14925010)
    It's only a Robot if it's autonomous. Otherwise, it's a Remote Device. Asimov's laws remain unbroken. For now.
  • by c6gunner (950153) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:50PM (#14925069)
    "defending it's principles"... are you fucking kidding me? You're defending oil fields, no more, no less.

    Bullshit. If the US wanted oil from Iraq, they would have lifted sanctions and bought it, or they would have just abused the oil-for-food program like everyone else. The lack of logic in the blood-for-oil argument is simply astounding. A simple cost/benefit analysis of how much money has been pumped into Iraq vs how much oil has been pumped out will show anyone with more than a handful of neurons that it makes no sense whatsoever to invade for oil. Moreover, even if we accept your gormless suggestion, it still doesn't exclude the possibility of individual soldiers "defending our principles". No matter what you beleive about the US governments goals in Iraq, you'd be pretty hard pressed to show that the majority of soldiers signed on to "defend oil fields".

    Where were you guys in Rwanda? Somalia? Basically anywhere in Africa where a coup is actively going on?

    Actually there were US soldiers in both Rwanda and Somalia. I guess you didn't see Blackhawk Down?

    Rwanda was the UN's show, and it was the UN's call to scale back the number of peacekeepers and allow the Hutus to slaughter the Tutsis. It's one of the many incidents which lead to our loss of faith in the UN, and it's part of the reason why the US was willing to go to war in Iraq without UN approval.

    As for Somalia [globalsecurity.org], US forces initiated operations there early on in the conflict:

    On December 3rd, U.N. Security Resolution 794 authorized the U.S. led intervention "to use all necessary means to establish a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia as soon as possible." The US Army participated in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia from 03 December 1992 to 4 May 1993. On 09 December 1992 the United States Marines came shore in Mogadishu and quickly established an expeditionary infrastructure to facilitate security and the delivery of food to the starving Somalis. On December 11th, the Marines established a Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC) and collocated it with the U.N.'s Humanitarian Operations Center (HOC). By doing this, the CMOC quickly became the national focus point for NGO/U.S. military coordination.
    Unfortiunately, the UN took over in 1993, and shortly afterwards things took a turn for the worse. US Delta and Rangers were involved in a massive confrontation in Mogadishu, and a secrtain Democrat president decided it was no longer politicaly prudent to have US forces operating in Somalia. Basicaly, he did what the dems have been advocating that we do in Iraq. Luckily this time there's a Republican in office, so Iraq hasn't yet turned into another cut-and-run campaign.

    I would suggest that you pick up a history book once in a while.
  • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @12:51PM (#14925082) Homepage Journal
    If they had read the robot novels, they would have noticed that even Asimov's robots did not always obey the laws. - you should reread the short stories then, because those robots always obeyed the laws since they were hardwired to break if they tried to violate the first law. The point of Asimov's stories was to show that in this world the idea of absolute laws doesn't work. The absolute laws do not cover every situation and often paradoxes are created where the law, that is followed to strictly, causes some sort of an unintended and often harmful result. This happens because the robots followed the letter but not the spirit of the law.

    Same thing obviously applies to humans, this is why Asimov's stories are such an interesting read and will never become out of date.
  • Not a robot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LanceUppercut (766964) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:01PM (#14925187)
    While this weapon has some "autonomous" capability, like tracking the target after the command to fire is issued, it is still no more a robot than any heat-seeking missile. In that sense any self-guided missile (SAMs or even cruise missiles) can be called "a robot that viloates the First Law". The First Law can only be applied to systems that autonomously make the critical decision "to harm ot not to harm". This system doesn't.
  • Re:Not really... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:13PM (#14925281) Homepage
    Now I'm not saying we should celebrate the actions the military has taken, I for one am against our actions involving Iraq, but we should celebrate the soldiers. The soldiers don't get to choose their orders, and when we really need an army we are going to be screwed if they aren't supported and/or don't have good moral.

    Yeah, if I could say I learned one thing from the reaction to troops after Vietnam, it would be to distinguish between the soldiers and the mission the soldiers are sent on. It is the leaders who choose the mission, and they are the ones who deserve our contempt for using the soldier in foolish, wasteful, or evil ways.

    Believing this, I find it very sad that today "Support Our Troops" carries with it implicit support for our troops' mission and the Commander in Chief who sent them on it. I despise the C-in-C, I do not believe in the mission, but damned if I don't have a lot of respect for someone willing to put themselves in that shitstorm and try to do their best.

    They don't make ribbons for that though.
  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rspress (623984) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:18PM (#14925331) Homepage
    Are there any robots in existence that are Three Laws Safe? Are there any robots at all that have any of Asimov's laws?
  • by Sembetu (954446) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:23PM (#14925374)
    We have had UAV's that can kill with bombs for YEARS, and if you know ANYTHING about the M1 Abrams tank, The Apache Longbow, or the F16 etc, you already know that robotic extensions of human capabilities have been present in warfare for decades. This particular case only seems to be a little bit scarier to some because of the semi-anthropomorphised nature of the robot itself. Remember, just because it is not in HUMAN form does not mean it is not a robot.
  • Re:Not really... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:43PM (#14925552)
    Why did most of these countries who *believed* Saddam had WMD refuse to go to war in Iraq?

    You mean France? Germany? Russia? You know, the ones with substantial (and ongoing) cash-generating relationships with Saddam? The ones with politicians and business interests busily scraping cash off of the oil for food program? Or are you thinking more in terms of the Russian lack of any actual workable military with which to contribute, and serious hopes of still trying to be a counter-US player in that part of the world, just for the sake of being contrary (as a PR move)? Or were you thinking of the high number of Islamist-types that have set up camp in Germany and France, where it's increasingly politically difficult to do anything that might offend them, or even just give them an excuse to act offended (see recent riots in France, see the complete de-clawing of any law enforcement in Germany, as it relates to dealing with radicalized, militant foreigners living locally on the dole while they plot things like 9-11... which is exactly what happened).

    Or, you could remind yourself of the number of countries that saw the same intel, and very much pitched in. You could even remind yourself of the security council votes that gave Saddam one last chance lest he face dire consequences. It's not "most of these countries," it's more like a minority of them. Places like eastern Europe, more recently familiar with living under tyrants like Saddam, were and still are all for removing him from power.

    If you want to get upset about something, get upset about where all of Saddam's toys went (ahem: check in Syria, which is full of his people, his money, and many shipments of his WMD-related goodies and technology).
  • Re:Not really... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nuzak (959558) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:48PM (#14925606) Journal
    No kidding. I, Robot was a collection of parables that warned of the consequences of rigid and inflexible dogma. Assuming sentience in robots, the third law is essentially slavery -- but in a deliciously ironic twist, it's humanity that ends up enslaved by it "for their own protection" by the end of the book.

    I still hear this inane "three laws" stuff as if it were the font of all wisdom .. I guess some people just can't understand subtext.

    And did Predator drones not count because they flew?

  • by SoulRider (148285) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:51PM (#14925638)
    you ever watch how many people go outside when there is a tornado? How many people gather to watch a hostage situation? Peoples desire to watch tragedy is human nature. I bet Americans would act very similarily if the US was attacked in the same way as Iraq was.

    They also like to blow each other up, indiscriminately.
    You dont think that if there was a war going on in America the KKK wouldnt use it as an excuse to indiscriminately kill minorities?
  • Re:Not really... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @01:53PM (#14925655)
    Do you leftists ever stop and think how you look to other people? If you haven't: you look exactly like tomstdenis. Angry, irrational, and on the wrong side of pretty much everything.

    Let's assume for the sake of argument that a "leftist" is someone who strongly opposed the Iraq war (and probably other Bush administration violations of the civil and human rights spelled out in the bill of rights in the US constitution).

    You are correct that "leftists" are angry and you are correct that "leftists" are in the minority in the United States.

    On the other hand, you'd have a hard time proving that "leftists" are irrational. For example, a "war crime" is conducting a war in violation of international law. It is clear that the United States invasion of Iraq violated the intent of international law. Specifically, international law only allows one country to go to war with another country in self defense or with the approval of the international community. It is clear that Iraq had neither the capability or the intent to launch a major attack on the United States so self defense is ruled out and at the time of the United States invasion of Iraq the majority of the international community was opposed to the United States invasion or Iraq.

    The "rational" view, therefore, is that the United States invasion of Iraq was a war crime and the the members of the Unnited States government and the members of the United States military are war criminals.

    Now the "emotional" view is that the members of the US military are "our boys" and "we love them" and maybe the emotional view is the right one to take in this case.

    The plain "rational" truth, however, is that they are war criminals.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Valar (167606) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @02:43PM (#14926107)
    Of course, if you look at convention four and you realize that either you have to treat someone as a prisoner of war, a hostile civilian (saboteur, spy, ununiformed fighter, etc), or a regular civilian. There is no forth category which affords no rights what-so-ever. Everyone that falls into the control of a country which they are not a national of is protected, perioded. Now, the rights you have are different, depending on your classification, but you still have rights.
  • by core plexus (599119) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @02:44PM (#14926126) Homepage
    This article describes the unmanned Stryker's that the army is testing [suvalleynews.com].

    "Yesterday we ran a 100-mile test where the lead vehicle was being driven manually and the robot was following," Jaczkowski said. "We did this successfully where the average speed was about 22 miles per hour. You may think that 22 miles per hour is not that fast when operational convoys are going 60 to 70 miles per hour. But you have to take into account that we did 68 right turns.

    "You don't take right turns at 50 miles per hour, especially with a 20-ton robot."

  • by snowwrestler (896305) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @03:23PM (#14926482)
    Is it hard reality? No, of course not. But neither are the depictions in Frankenstein, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Jurassic Park, Gattaca, or Animal Farm or Watership Down for that matter. But clearly these are important pieces of thinking on the issues they address--issues like surveillance technology, abuse of political power, genetic manipulation, etc.

    Speculative fiction is often where the implications of technological change are first addressed. The most successful practitioners are literally thought leaders, because their stories are sometimes the first to draw out concepts of the future to possible implications or conclusions. That is why science fiction authors are often sought out as consultants to private or public enterprises that push tech barriers. It's not because they are necessarily "right" about the future, but because they are thinking about the issues in unique or broader or farther-reaching ways.

    For instance Asimov didn't create his laws as hard-nosed coding advice for modern programmers. They are just part of his larger consideration of a) what it would take for the public to accept sentient robots among them, and b) what are the practical and ethical implications of trying to hard-code rigid laws onto actual intelligence? You say they wouldn't work for law-enforcement robots, and you might be righter than you know...would the public even accept law enforcement robots, even with such laws in place? A question like this is where a science fiction story (and the public reaction to it) can be very illuminating.

    Unless you've got some real sentient machines we can use for hard research, we're stuck with thought experiments in considering the implications of such machines. Asimov's stories involving robots are some of the most detailed and coherent examples. They serve as common ground upon which to start conversations...for example this one. They don't need to be "right" or "accurate" to serve that purpose.
  • by Feanturi (99866) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @03:27PM (#14926521)
    In order for a law to be broken, it has to exist first. A killing machine such as this is merely a gun with a remote control. It's not a robot in the sense that there would even be a place for such a law in its programming.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @03:55PM (#14926753) Homepage
    America's suburban lifestyle requires oil. Getting that oil has a price in blood. America's robot armies will insure that less of that blood is American.

    That's the reality.

  • by retards (320893) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @05:47PM (#14927857) Journal
    Wars are about killing people that want to stop you from doing things that are against their will. Iraq is not liberated, it is occupied and on the brink of civil war. Iraq is doomed and the coalition is going to go home Vietnam-style.

    Having big guns means you can beat the shit out of anyone you want, look at the blitzkrieg in 1939-40 in Europe.

    Who are you defending? Who lives in the Green Zone? Are you liberating people in China? Are you liberating people in Africa? How about Pakistan, are they going to be liberated?

    WWII was modern, and a lot of people got killed. Iraq is a puny little skirmish, that's why body counts are 'low', not because of 'modern warfare'.

    Saying that warfare reduces body counts saves lives is pure Orwell. War is Peace.
  • Who The F Cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edward.virtually@pob (6854) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @07:12PM (#14928616)
    I really wish people would stop referring to Asimov's Laws of Robotics as if they had any external validity. They applied to FICTIONAL robots in his stories. They have no connection to the real world and real robots, as this article (and undoubtedly endless future warbots will) demonstrates. Breaking them is unremarkable, and referring to them in news stories serves only to perpetuate the idea in the minds of the ignorant that they have significance outside the context of sci-fi.
  • by Kittie Rose (960365) on Wednesday March 15, 2006 @07:47PM (#14928912) Homepage
    The Three laws aren't accepted purely because everyone's a big Asimov geek, but because they make sense and they work. He doesn't need to be a robotics expert, Asimov was a very intelligent man and had some marvellous ideas. Ideas come from all kinds of places, not just white-coats. If it wasn't for Star Trek, a lot of real world advanced physics would probably be years behind what we have now.

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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