A new toy

As you may have guessed, I do like to keep up on technological developments. A company called Boston Dynamics has been doing a lot of work on a robot that they have dubbed “Handle,” the thing looks crazy. Check out the video and article here.

After you’ve seen it in action, I’d like you to think about all the implications of such a machine. Remember how we discussed automation earlier? This robot seems to be tailor made for rote tasks in a factory or storehouse. It is also quite agile.

Give it another couple of generations of development, and I can see its military applications as well. If it had legs, it could be used to carry heavy loads, the bane of the infantryman since the beginning of time. Of course, to serve in that role it would need a very good power source and robust engineering.

It could also be adapted as a fire support vehicle, a bunker on wheels or legs. It could mount a machine gun like the M-240B, which could be controlled remotely. Sensors already exist that detect incoming fire, mounting one on the Handle and programming it to return fire wouldn’t be all that great of a trick.

Of course, after the Handle or something like it is militarized (and it will be), it’s a short step to combat machines that are autonomous. We’ve all seen “Terminator,” it would be fearsome to go up against robots.

Imagine, if you will, that you have been dubbed an insurgent, someone’s enemy. You are fairly heavily armed. You have an assault rifle and something like an RPG. It’s dark and rainy, you are wet and miserable in the pre-dawn hours. Every now and then you scan the area in front of you with your thermals, there’s not much to see. You hear a muffled noise, something like rocks grinding against one another. There’s something out there. Your blood runs cold, you feel the electric shock of fear.

There was nothing on the thermals, so you look with your NVGs into the dark. The night is pitch black, you see a hazy green image of trees, buildings and a lurking black shape. The shape is new, you know this is not good. Foolishly, you hit the IR push function of your monocular to get a better look.

Depending on how the robot in front of you is programmed, it would surely detect the sweep of your mini IR light. In this case, the robot is programmed to fire when it detects an active IR emission. Before you know it, you are dead.

Let’s say you don’t use your IR push, and the machine doesn’t know exactly where you are because you’ve taken measures to reduce your thermal signature.  You decide to shoot at it with your RPG, your rifle is useless against the lurking threat. Well, you had better hit it square. If you miss, the machine will know where you are and it will kill you.

And an RPG is a notoriously inaccurate weapon.

Fighting humans is bad enough. Going up against robots would be sheer murder. The day, though, will come. You can bet your bottom dollar on this.

3 thoughts on “A new toy

  1. I think you are correct about the military application but there is another option. To refer back to the automation thread. 20 of those machines on the moon. We send up building materials and pretty soon you could have a moon base completely built by robots powered by the sun and controlled from earth. First step to a Martian colony. They work 24 hours a day, they don’t breathe eat or crap so we cut down on amenities and downtime. Taking it to a more radical angle, they could then build the rocket to Mars which would require less power to clear the atmosphere so could have a larger payload or shorter trip time. Mankind would have a purpose we haven’t seen since the space race.

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    • You are absolutely right. I tend to think dark thoughts about stuff like this, but there will probably be a lot of upsides, too. It all depends on where people want to go with this type of thing, and space exploration would be a great application. I think that people have a bit more common sense than to make a completely autonomous killing machine- governments will always want to keep a human in the decision loop. They’ve seen Terminator, too.

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      • Sadly the two could mix and we end up with a robotic army based on the moon after the BOT rebellion that is constantly trying to invade earth and we have to use good old fashioned humans coz the robots co opt any new ones we make. Kinda works for a short lived sci fi series or a long lived one the more I think about it.

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