Prepare, Sustain, Thrive and Survive Simply

Surviving with drones and killer robots

When I first grasped “TEOTWAWKI” a.k.a., Judgement Day, back in the 70s, I came to the conclusion that people’s best chance to weather the storm would be to set up pastoral, self-reliant, voluntarily simple communities of faith.

At that time I did not anticipate the abominations of drone surveillance, genetically engineered weather and seeds, sabotaged soil and water, and killer government robots on the loose.

It’s enough to get a girl a little down in the mouth.

I tend to drift into my visionary utopian La La Land hopes of life on earth. I want to recapture my innocence, but news items like this snap me back to  reality about the scary up world we are in. My intention is to feature more stories that teach how to live simply, but when I read about threatening current events, I have to spend time spreading the word. I really appreciate your patience and willingness to consider what’s going on.

Do the hearts of other thrival/survivalists sink when they see things like this?

The topic of “Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems,” aka, unmanned Killer Robots, is discussed in the UN

The UN convened its first meeting on Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWS) in Geneva last week (May 2014) where Michael Møller, a top United Nations official in Geneva said,  “You have the opportunity to take preemptive action and ensure that the ultimate decision to end life remains firmly under human control.”

Autonomous killer robots (those that need no human intervention to operate) have not yet been deployed, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the extent of their development as a military technology remains unclear. He urged that discussion on killer robot management protocols begin right away, not after the technology is already wreaking havoc.

According to these video links, robots are still learning how to climb stairs, run through the woods, pose for the camera, and such, but other sources say they are more advanced.

Big Dog Military Robots

“Big Dog” Military Robots, U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. M. L. Meier, via Wikimedia Commons

Ronald Arkin, a robotics expert at the Georgia Institute of Technology was commissioned by the military to figure out how unmanned killer robots can be ethically appropriated. He believes such robots will be making life and death decisions, and that that might not be a bad idea.

“The trend is clear: Warfare will continue and autonomous robots will ultimately be deployed in its conduct,” according to a quote in Pentagon Exploring Robot Killers That Can Fire On Their Own. “The pressure of an increasing battlefield tempo is forcing autonomy further and further toward the point of robots making that final, lethal decision,” he said. He believes ethically-programmed robots that don’t react from fear, anger, frustration, or revenge will actually be more predicable and humane than people in the heat of war. For example, it’s hard to envision an ethically-programmed killer robot raping enemy women.

Writer Versha Sharma says robots are now being used as guards on the border between North and South Korea. You can see a picture of one in her  2013 article. “It looks a bit like a tall R2D2 and has a machine gun on top,” observed Dr. Peter Asaro, a roboticist and professor at the New School who is quoted in the article. “It’s used in a remote-operated mode, but it has the capability for fully autonomous, so it can use its cameras to detect human targets and fire at them.”

Sharma’s article also describes the X47B, “a sleek unmanned combat air vehicle, developed by Northrop Grumman…It has successfully taken off by itself and landed on an aircraft carrier. It has two holding bays that could carry thousands of pounds of weapons and ammo. And this is just the prototype.”

Also in the works is the Taranis, a secretive UK project by BAE Systems that was recently lunched at a remote test site in Australia.

A US robot that looks like a skeleton with a machine gun on top and can fire at will was demonstrated to US Army leaders earlier this year in Georgia.

Lt. Col. Willie Smith, chief of unmanned ground vehicles at Fort Benning, hopes killer robots will be implemented in battle by 2018. He and his peers intend to view the robots not just as super killing machines, “but members of the squad. That’s the goal,” he told ComputerWorld, in an article called Gun-Toting Robots May Fight Alongside Soldiers in Future Battles, by Denise Chow.

One of the first military studies on the subject: Autonomous Military Robotics: Risk, Ethics, and Design, published by California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo for the Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research, way back in December of 2008 opens with two pages of compelling reasons to implement autonomous killer robots:

  • Fewer dead soldiers and heartbroken families
  • More efficient searching for terrorists in dark caves, and patrolling skies and waterways
  • Better at securing urban streets under a hail of sniper fire
  • They can clear away explosive devices, survey damage from biochemical weapons, guard borders and buildings.
  • Robots would be much better than people for controlling hostile crowds.
  • They can make faster and smarter decisions.
  • They don’t get fatigued, sleep deprived, despondent, or stressed.
  • They won’t brutalize the enemy, and would snitch on human soldiers that do.

Despite all these fine prospects, the two-edged sword of technology should not be ignored because “risks” will inevitably become an issue. An aim of the report is to engage policymakers and the public and “head off a potential backlash” like the one stalling forward progress of genetically modified foods, the writers say.

The “worries” listed include enemy hacking of robot software, questions of accountability when systems fail, and the nightmare of malfunctioning killer robots gone wild. Soldier morale could suffer if robots snitch on indiscretions by human soldiers. And, if the risk to human life is minimized, will people be more likely to start wars?

Despite the threats, the writers sound overwhelmingly in favor of progress toward military use of autonomous fighting machines. Five years after publication, a group formed to block further development of killer robot technology.

Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

A campaign has been launched to implement an international ban treaty on autonomous weapons. It’s led by Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch and includes scientists and roboticists engineers like Dr. Asaro, and some Nobel Laureates.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots launched last year in London, but movements need a groundswell of popular opinion to succeed. If this is anything like the drone problem, the Powers the Be will quell dissent by implementing benevolent uses that make the sheeple actually desire robots of all kinds in society. Make them cute, personable, and heroic, and people will be quickly won over.

Stop the Killer Robot campaign

Stop the Killer Robot campaign

Council on Foreign Relations tells us what’s in store

The Council on Foreign Relations — which steers foreign affairs by publicizing its opinions, making recommendations to the administration, and influencing diplomats, also mentioned the upcoming killer robots at its 2014 Council of Councils Annual Conference in New York last week, according to a summary of panel discussions posted on the Web.

The 56-page pdf file summarizes key issues in the immediate future and boldly asserts what “will” be coming down the pike very soon.

Panelists who addressed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) were sure they represent an intermediate step of technology toward all robots all the time.

Drone use, they said, will expand from the current “3-d-areas: dull, dirty, and dangerous,” to replace human functions in daily life, environmental monitoring programs, and enhanced military applications.

“Obviously in the civil and commercial domain automated systems will replace humans in the longer run.”

Another article says “force planners” anticipate drone technology will naturally evolve to lethal Terminator-type robot technology soon. Force planners? Hmmm. That’s the first time I’d heard of that career choice.

“Military requirements for fast real-time operations…will increasingly lead to implementing autonomous functions into unmanned platforms.” The rapid advance of technology will soon have to “take into account the gradual evolution of drones into robots.”

These flying killer robots, the report says, could be programmed to operate without human intervention at all. “The U.S. Navy’s U-Class program, for instance, will produce an aircraft capable …of…(performing) entire missions…without a human operator in the loop.”

Another drawback to the surgical “fix” afforded by drone technology and smart, fast robots is “the temptation to take a short cut by using drones” (instead of “slower and messier methods such as law enforcement”) “to eradicate drug kingpins, weapons smugglers, or the leaders of groups committing atrocities in ungoverned spaces. This could erode domestic and international norms around justice and due process.”

Would a President use killer robots against the American people?

Since the 70s (and earlier) conspiracy “theorists” have posited that an increasingly tyrannical government will suspend Posse Comitatus and use the military as a police force to control citizens who are willing to fight for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The government would have to overcome the pesky problem of soldiers and cops with consciences who want to uphold their oaths to defend liberty. In the 70s conspiracy theorists thought the government would skirt the problem by importing foreign troops that don’t care about upholding the Constitution.

Of course if the robots are ready by the time the shit hits the fan, why not just turn them on the dissenters instead?

It’s not a huge leap in the light of comments made by President Obama last year to the UN General Assembly. He said the international “collective community” must intervene when societies break down. “This will require new thinking and some very tough choices,” he said. Does that new thinking include things like drones and killer robots? Even though the UN was formed to prevent international wars, the president noted, increasing slaughter within “fragile and failing” states will put innocent people at risk, and outside forces will have to be called upon to quell the disturbances.

What else is coming down the ‘pike?

Other issues addressed by COC at their 2014 meeting include:

  • R2P (Right to Protect) and the rules of humanitarian intervention in trouble spots.
  • Internet governance
  • Global finance governance
  • Emerging global infectious diseases.

Search for: The 2014 Council of Councils Annual Conference panelist papers pdf to get a more in-depth glimpse of what you are in for in the coming years.

Humanoid Robots to Flying Cars: 10 Coolest DARPA Projects, by Denise Chow, October 16, 2013

Autonomous Military Robotics: Risk, Ethics, and Design, was published by the CalPoly at San Luis Obispo way back in December of 2008.

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