I swear to you, people mock sci-fi, but sci-fi is often herald of the future. People dream what the possibilities could be — what would be neat, what life could be like, what would be the consequences of misuse of technology? The mass public would mock Star Trek, but how much closer are we getting to the tech we saw on TV 50 years ago?
What about Isaac Asimov and his novels about robots? How about sci-fi movies like Runaway, starring Tom Selleck? It wasn’t the greatest movie (though it also starred Gene Simmons and Kirstie Alley), but the every day use and ubiquitous nature of robtots in every day life was very possible. Now, look at companies like iRobot, making home robots for consumers, and robots for the military. Just like in the movie Runaway, one day we’ll have robots providing sentry guard duty, operating mass transit, and fighting on the battlefield.
The New Atlantis published an in-depth essay call this year, Military Robots and the Laws of War, which begins with the history of unmanned vehicles, what we have now, and what is on the horizon. Remember in Terminator 3, we saw smaller versions of the flying HK craft? How far down the evolutionary line is that from the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), and other mobile weapon platforms we’re building now? How many robots do you think are in use now by the U.S. armed forces?
When U.S. forces went into Iraq, the original invasion had no robotic systems on the ground. By the end of 2004, there were 150 robots on the ground in Iraq; a year later there were 2,400; by the end of 2008, there were about 12,000 robots of nearly two dozen varieties operating on the ground in Iraq. As one retired Army officer put it, the “Army of the Grand Robotic” is taking shape.
As a sci-fi geek, I find the use of robots on the battlefield pretty intriguing. However, I’ve seen a lot of sci-fi movies, and I’m wondering where this is all going.