DARPA, or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is always on the lookout for new technology and advanced research possibilities. In order to come up with new ways for the US to defend itself, the organization has just revealed a new project called “Avatar.” DARPA is not going to try to research blue James Cameron aliens but they are going to look in another direction which James Cameron already explored: Terminator-like robots which will replace soldiers in war zones. This might sound appealing, but one day we will all be faced by these cold-soldier-robots, and judgement day may come a lot sooner than we thought. According to DARPA the program is about “interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bipedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier’s surrogate.” That means that the robot doesn’t operate on its own, for now, but is controlled by soldiers who are stationed far, far away from the actual war front. The robot will be able to attack and fight like an unarmed aerial vehicle which is able to walk.Does this seem far-fetched? Another weird concept? Unfortunately this one is probably going to become very, very real. Boston Dynamics has already created “Petman,” a walking, talking robot who can even do push ups. Unfortunately it’s not transferable to our own bodies. We still have to do our own push ups to see results. This company also came up with Alpha Dog, The robot Legged Squad Support System.It is now quite clear that DARPA invested $7 million into this program to develop a robot that can replace human soldiers. However they haven’t yet replaced humans entirely. For now, that is. Some members of the public are quite concerned. Some take it very seriously while others try to joke about it. Here are some of the more poignant comments:Hugo Alves: a citizen with concerns said, “Can anyone imagine what will happen when the first company manages to develop the first robotic soldier? They will have the entire world under their feet.That is a really scary thought, like nothing we have seen before throughout our history.”Magnus Blomber, a citizen with the voice of possible reason, said “Even if and when the first robot soldier is created, it will be to expensive to create a whole army of them. It will still be cheaper and more effective to hire human soldiers for a while. In that time we will have to figure out how to handle robotic armies.”Nordisk Ting wanted to add his thoughts on DARPA and judgement day coming sooner than we thought. “Oh no no, don’t think of the actual use of these things,” he said. “Don’t imagine what it would be like getting awakened at night in your little house on the outskirts of Baghdad by your door being kicked in by a god damned MACHINE, with an operator sitting thousands of miles away, some guy to whom this is just a regular job, his mind numbed by the humdrum banality of looking at a screen and every so often pulling the trigger.”
A real soldier will smell and hear and touch the people around him. There is an element of “reality check” to the insanity that is war. Yes, every single day civilians are being raped, mutilated and killed by soldiers; losing their wits – and humanity. And yet there’s at least the human contact; you might sometimes be able to reach inside the scared teenager pointing his gun at you and persuade him to come to his senses.
But now imagine this guy staring at the monitor in an air conditioned cubicle somewhere, radio playing in the background, coffee mug on his desk. Begging for your family’s life makes less sense now-screaming at a rigid hunk of steel armed with an arsenal,controlled by someone utterly anonymous, somewhere far away.
What does anonymity do to people here on the net? Does it make them braver, warmer, more empathic? If that’s what you think, log on to 4chan.
No, don’t think of the horrid reality of actually facing one of these things some day. Don’t worry. That usually happens to brown people somewhere else. No, you keep focusing on how COOL it would be to, like,run one of those things, and like, it’d be totally “AWESOME!”
It does sound like a horrible, horrible plan, doesn’t it? War should be outlawed anyway, but soldiers should not be replaced by machines. Or can I replace myself with a robot as well in order to attack the robot soldier in front of my hypothetical door? Because it will not be limited to remote areas in Arabic countries. We will all stare into a cold robot eye soon enough. Therefore, thanks to DARPA, judgement day will probably come much sooner than we thought.
By Georgina Pijttersen