When you think of a killer robot, what image comes to mind? Probably, it’s a machine that looks roughly like a person, with legs, arms, a head, and a face featuring two glowing red eyes. It may even have a big mouth, with sharp metal teeth.
Think about it though, and you’ll realize that there’s no reason that a robot has to look like a person. A robot is a machine that moves under its own power to get work done, and that could like anything. A killer robot, by extension, could take on any shape, so long as it got the job of killing done.
Let’s look at an example of a real killer robot: The Ripsaw MS1, manufactured for the U.S. Military by Howe and Howe Technologies. It may have wheels instead of legs, and guns instead of arms, but it has eyes: Cameras that allow someone at a remote location, even miles away, to direct its activities.
It’s a robot, and among the missions this robot can perform is to kill people. It’s kind of like a video game, with the person controlling the Ripsaw looking at TV screens, and holding a controlling device, pointing the guns, and shooting human targets dead. Of course, there’s one brutal difference between the Ripsaw MS1 and a point and shoot video game. With the Ripsaw MS1, the killing is real.
The military already has Ripsaw MS1 prototypes, and is preparing them to be used in Iraq and Afghanistan, to join the nearly 20,000 military robots already deployed in those wars. In order to help get these killer robots for action, an spending earmark providing two million dollars for continued research and development of the Ripsaw MS1 was slipped into H.R. 3326, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for 2010.
The two members of Congress responsible for this earmark for killer robots were Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Olympia Snowe. Senator Snowe even took to the floor of the U.S. Senate last year to make a speech about how great the Ripsaw killer robots are. Snowe praised the Ripsaw MS1 killer robots as “cutting edge”, “state-of-the-art”, and “critical to our Nation’s military success”.
On her official congressional web site, Pingree brags that she asked for even millions of dollars more than the Ripsaw MS1 finally received. She says of the killer robots, “it is imperative unmanned technology is not only developed for the air but also developed for the ground where it’s needed the most.”
On which ground does Representative Pingree think that killer robots are “needed the most”? I hope it’s not ground anywhere near I live.