One of internet's mainstays these last few years has been videos from robotics company Boston Dynamics. The seemingly innocuous research lab often releases videos where their cute/unnerving humanoid machines and robot dogs dance around, do backflips and other stuff.
Now, not all of these have been real videos. YouTubers like Corridor Digital have made impressive parodies where the robots fight back. However, it’s hard to ignore the appeal of these things when you’ve got the robots dancing to BTS. Yes, we know that’s a weird sentence, but here we are. Anyway, the cute robot dogs have guns now. Sorry!
This is why we can’t have nice things
As reported by Jalopnik, things have gone horribly awry at an alarming rate. Revealed during the Association of the United States Army’s 2021 annual conference, quadrupedal robot dogs now have rifles on their backs. It’s an odd-sounding event for anyone not in the USA, but seems to have been quite the event for those who love a bit of military action.
The robot is called the SPUR. Which stands for Special Purpose Unnmanned Rifle. You’ll be happy to know the patent is pending. Phew. According to the website, “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.” It’s meant to be safe, though presumably not for whoever is one the receiving end of it. Furthermore, the weapon is accurate up to 1200m, which is a frankly preposterous and ultimately terrifying distance. The true distance of attack is theoretically further as the person controlling it is likely ever further away still.
Along with all of that, it comes with a bunch of sensors that allow it to be functional in most circumstances, and holds 10 rounds too. In essence, that means it can kill off ten people with unnerving accuracy and more detachment than ever before. On the plus side, using unmanned weapons means that those operating them are far less likely to die. On the downside, and it’s kind of a doozy, it also means that whoever’s operating it is unlikely to consider people as actual people.
We’re all familiar with how often drone strikes either hit the wrong target, or hit the right target with a lot of collateral damage. These are things that can happen with normal weapons too, but a lot of people don’t actually like killing people in front of them, which isn’t something that really applies when you’re using weapons like you’re playing GTA 5. And this robot dog is far, far from the only new toy for militaries — think of AI Sniper Rifles and unmanned suicide drone tanks.
Technology is never just good
While some new and exciting technologies start out innocent and harmless, the inevitable end point tends to be marred in violence or bigotry. The ability to track faces means that automatic unmanned weapons will be able to find their mark far more accurately. Smart devices have been hacked to let strangers are talking to your children via a baby cam. Then you've got the likes of every AI ending up being a racist, sexist mess. The latter is always caused by the internet.
Just take Delphi, for example, which is designed as a computational model for descriptive ethics. It's a cool concept, but it shows that you can't leave anything up to an AI. They're just so easily corrupted. After all, as long as human bias exists, AI bias will as well.
The same is obviously true of the adorable robot dogs. There's not a single piece of technology that won't end up warped into some comedically cyberpunk fiasco that's designed to harm us rather than help us, and it really sucks. You know?