Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The new battlefield

Robots are getting smaller and smaller by the day. The first robots in SiFi movies where enormous, they where displayed as mechanical monsters who where operated by a evil genius who wanted to destroy the world or takeover the world. Asimov, also a SiFi writer, wrote the laws of robotics who stated that a robot should never harm a human not even if the operator intended it to harm a person.

I Still believe that the Asimov laws are to be followed however today we see robots who control borders and military facilities and who are equipped with machine guns and other weapons. In basic there is nothing wrong with a robot walking around a compound and leaving the operator in a warm and dry environment however at the moment that you arm them there is a difference. At least this is in my opinion.

Robots as they where displayed in the first SiFi movies have never become reality, the first robots developed where big however not as big as in the movies and now the trend is to make them smaller and smaller.

The latest robot in the small-robot series comes from France and is developed by SilMach and received a price from the France department of defence, the Prix Science et Defence. The Libellule is 3 centimeters long and has a weight of 120mg where 20mg go's to the wings. As with many of the small robots the battery lifetime is the main problem.

That the France department of defence has honored the researchers with a price indicates that they have a interest in small robots. This will most likely be the future of the battlefield in the upcoming years. Small robots who might work alone or in a cluster will scan the battlefield on a ground level or a just above ground level. At higher altitudes robots like the Predator will circle and give a bigger picture to the commanders while at the same moment other robots will scan for mines and IED's or patrol the perimeter of airfields and might even be used for House to House combat.

In the future there will be a big difference in the way how troops will behave in the battlefield, the difference will be between those countries who have the money to develop those kinds of new battle equipment and those who do not have the resources. If a conflict like Somalia will ever raise again it could very well be that the troops of the warlords will not even see the enemy troops from the western world. It could very well be that if a war like that flames up again in 20 years that the troops will send in robots who are controlled from a main control room aboard a ship a couple of kilometers out of the coast and which is well defended by a fleet of escort ships who will protect it against all possible attacks.

As I already stated I am against arming robots, there is a difference between standing on a battle field and looking at the other man before you decide to pull the trigger and sitting in a save environment between a screen in an airco controlled operating room. In my opinion the operator will decide to open fire a lot quicker than the man on the ground and even do all the systems are there to give the operator a clean and open view of the battlefield it can not make a decision like the man on the ground who can hear, see and smell everything the same way as his opponent.

I do not think it is a bad thing to use robots to clear mines, patrol airfields and do all kinds of recognisance tasks, I even have the feeling they might be better at this than a human but having them engage in a real war and in real combat is not the way to go.... at least not at this moment and not with the Asimov law in place. Thank god for the Asimov law..... If countries should have large robot armies the step to go to war would be so much smaller and I think the collateral damage, the dead under civilians should be a lot bigger.

When a President or Government has to send there own young man and woman out there and there is change they might end up in a body bag they have one more point to consider. If only damaged machines should come back home that would not even be a point of discussion when deciding to go to war. s

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