The future of warfare is either cybernetic warriors, flesh and blood turned into chimera of flesh and machine… or full robotic warriors either under control of human pilots on foreign countries, or themselves. I think that this is an interesting crossroad. The US Army says that by 2023, robotic warriors will number 1 to 10. This doesn’t mean fully humanoid robots, but Boston Dynamics is working on them. The future robot warriors are going to be a mix of Atlas, BigDog, Cheetah, and even freakier, SandFlea.
While this isn’t a big concern right now, there will be a day in the future when in our country and in the future, it will be policed, protected, and populated by robotic warriors. Personally, I think that if the robots are basically avatars for human pilots it won’t be that big of deal. I can see a sea of robotic warriors walking, driving, and headed towards another robotic army instead of humans destroying themselves on the battlefield.
By making our soldiers robotic there are downsides and benefits for everyone involved. I was thinking at work tonight about this, and it would be ethical include programming and directives that the RoboWarriors would use to prevent innocents dying on the battlefields of tomorrow. I personally think that the programming would have to include code to only allow gunfire to be used on other warriors, and severe punishments would be done for human pilots that intentionally harm or kill human civilians. There will always be an asshole in the group, and we have to actually plan for this. A truly robotic army would be difficult to maintain, upgrade, and protect. The costs would be too high for us to maintain an army like this for long, at least at our current level of robotic technology. There would still have to be ground crews performing maintenance, repairs, and what about the disabled or destroyed? Would we leave them there? Would it matter that the coda “No one gets left behind” wouldn’t matter? Would it be a mix of robotic and human warriors?
This wouldn’t be a simple solution, and with all the frustrations and outrage over drones flying overhead in foreign and domestic countries across the world I know that a future with robotic warriors would be difficult to request or require. Think about it, a small third world country decides that China or even Australian territories are to be contested, are we going to send in humans or an army of robot death machines to stomp the shit out of them? Ethically we would send human soldiers, but a less discerning country would send in the robots. This could be bad, very bad in the long run. A simple platoon of robotic warriors fighting people with crappy AK-47s would stomp the fuck out of those poor bastards. Granted, in the worlds eye, the country in question would look like the biggest assholes on Earth, but how long would the outrage last?
But ethically we can’t turn our soldiers into this:
That would be Sektor from Mortal Kombat. It’s years further than what we could ever do in the next ten years, but what about twenty or thirty?
Is it ethical to turn man into machine? To combine man with machines to kill? Is it wrong to want to avoid cyborg warriors? Those three answers in my opinion is NO. You should only get cyborg upgrades if its elected or necessary to continue living. By turning man into machine, we have the RoboCop debate. Where does that machinery end and the humanity begin? Granted the public could be told that the cyborg upgrades were elective, but in the real world we know that it wouldn’t be. We don’t need a Halsey and another John 117 running around.
Cyborg fighters and robots are awesome in media, but the underlying ethical questions and debates are too great to ever consider putting cyborg boots to ground. We couldn’t risk the chance that our soldiers would not be impervious to cyber manipulation through hacks and malware. We couldn’t deal with the costs, even if our economy was perfect. The ethical and political debates would rage for years, even after we’d been using them.
But the most important thing? We don’t need them. As awesome that robot warriors on the battlefields sounds, we honestly don’t need them. We don’t have to fight in wastelands over irradiated shitholes that we can’t live on. We just don’t need them. But, it sounds like the major armies of the world are working towards a robotic army of death machines. And we’ll see what happens from the first time metal boots are in the fight.