I heard this discussion over the ethics of killer robots (ENERGETICALLY AUTONOMOUS TACTICAL ROBOT, appropriately shortened to “EATR”) on the battlefield on KPCC radio bright ‘n’ early this morning and became excited over the possibility of science fiction plot lines inching closer and closer to reality. This picture above will not be what they look like (a more accurate modeled depiction after the jump), but how frightening would it be if these self-refueling lovelies really did jump into the uncanny valley? The government is trying to make more “ethically” aware EAT(E)Rs that will reject tasty corpse morsels on the battlefield (this is apparently against the Geneva convention?) for more Brontosaurus-friendly scraps. The question comes then, if your robot kills someone on the battlefield, who’s moral dilemma does it become? Obviously robots are not of a sentient mind to make such decisions…or are they?
EATR, developed by Robotic Technology Inc:
“We originated the concept of the EATR in 2003 and the project was sponsored as a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The project is advancing toward Phase II Enhancement and Phase III Commercialization with assistance from our Teaming Partners, Elbit Systems of America and the Boeing Corporation; additional Teaming Partners will be joining soon.
The purpose of the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR)™ (patent pending) project is to develop and demonstrate an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling, which would otherwise preclude the ability of the robot to perform such missions. The system obtains its energy by foraging – engaging in biologically-inspired, organism-like, energy-harvesting behavior which is the equivalent of eating. It can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable.
In addition to missions requiring long-range, long-endurance ability, the EATR can provide direct support to combat units without requiring labor or materiel logistics support for refueling. EATR could forage for its own energy while the unit rested or remained in position. EATR, having a heavy-duty robotic arm and hybrid external combustion engine, could provide direct support to combat units by: carrying the unit’s backpacks and other materiel (the mule function); provide RSTA, weapons, support, casualty extraction, or transport; provide energy to recharge the unit’s batteries or directly power command and control centers.
This demonstration project can lead to three potential Phase III commercialization projects: (1) the development of prototype and operational EATR™ systems for military and civil applications; (2) new civil and military applications for the autonomous intelligent control system; and (3) development of the hybrid external combustion engine system for civil and military automotive applications, whether for manned or unmanned vehicles.”