Killer Robots

SWORDSMetafilter links to a story about the first armed robots in Iraq. They are referred to as “SWORDS,” or “Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System.” According to Thomas Killion, Chief Scientist of the U.S. Army, in an interview with CNET’s, over the next few years, these robots will become more and more autonomous.

A lot of the systems today are tele-operated. That means a soldier has to spend all of his time essentially controlling a system, in terms of things like PackBot and so on. We want to get away from burdening soldiers in that way, and the work that we’re doing largely in support of the FCS program is demonstrating semiautonomous vehicles where they can do a lot of planning and execution on their own and they really only have to essentially call home to a soldier that’s controlling it when it needs additional guidance or is posed with a situation it doesn’t know what to do or it is at a point in the mission where it really needs further direction so it knows exactly what to do next.

I cannot begin to tell you how bad of an idea I think this is. We’re going to give robots guns and the autonomy to kill people.

Who’s responsible when one of these SWORDS kills some innocent Iraqi schoolchildren? What happens when one of our enemies figures out how to feed the SWORDS false instructions?

As a commenter in the Metafilter thread asks, Doesn’t anyone in the military ever consider unintended consequences?

The 9/11 Horror Fest

There’s an insightful article on the Guardian entitled “The weekend’s 9/11 horror-fest will do Osama bin Laden’s work for him.” I call this insightful largely because I had had the same thought myself. Here is an excerpt:

I would ask Bin Laden whether he had something special up his sleeve for the fifth anniversary. Why waste money, he would reply. The western media were obligingly re-enacting the destruction and the screaming, turning the base metal of violence into the gold of terror. They would replay the tapes and rerun the footage ad nauseam, and thus remind the world of his awesome power. Americans are more afraid of jihadists this year than last. In a Transatlantic Trends survey, the number of them describing international terrorism as an “extremely important threat” went up from 72% to 79%. As for European support for America’s world leadership, that has plummeted from 64% in 2002 to 37% this year.

Bin Laden might boast that he had achieved terrorism’s equivalent of an atomic chain reaction: a self-regenerating cycle of outrage and foreign-policy overkill, aided by anniversary journalism and fuelled by the grim scenarios of security lobbyists. He now had only to drop an occasional CD into the offices of al-Jazeera, and Washington and London quaked with fear. The authorities could be reduced to million-dollar hysterics by a phial of nail varnish, a copy of the Qur’an, or a dark-skinned person displaying a watch and a mobile phone.

I encourage you to read the whole thing.

It is the business of terrorists to incite terror. A terrified populace is an easily controlled populace. As the failed “liquid explosive” bombing attempt in London demonstrates, terrorists don’t even have to kill anyone to incite panic and sweeping, ill-thought-out changes in policy.

I am tired of this. Enough! Enough of the media constantly replaying those same terrible hours over and over again. Enough of the herd of the Western World quivering in terror of the Jihadist wolves. Enough of politicians using 9/11 to justify further and further attacks on liberty and human decency.

So, I for my part choose not to wallow in the horror and terror of those attacks five years ago. I do not plan to watch the movies. I will not listen to CNN’s non-stop coverage. I will not engage in the 9/11 Festival of Horror.


This would be awesome…

Y’all know that I’m not a huge fan of our current aviation security measures, right? Well, here’s an interesting idea on how to solve that problem:

I think someone should try to blow up a plane with a piece of ID, just to watch the TSA’s mind implode.

Quoting Cory Doctorow: “Could the TSA muster the will to fight a war on identification?”

I wonder what they would do…. Perhaps require air travellers to be implanted with an RFID chip? Hmm…

The Terrorists are Winning

Over the past few days, terrorists have done immense damage to the air travel industry without even blowing up a single plane.

By creating fear (or, “terror,” if you will), they have caused the airline industry and the government-owned Transportation Security Administration to overreact against all the normal citizens of western countries. Before, flying was a mild inconvenience: you’d have to go through security, take off your shoes, and go through. Now, they’re taking away iPods, books, bottles of water, cell phones, laptops. Basically, you will sit on the plane, staring forward with hands in your lap, hungry, thirsty, and unable to do anything about it.

So, who’s up for a trip to Europe?! Anybody…?

It’s even gotten to the point that people can’t fly because they wear those gel insoles on their shoes.

What makes this all worse is that the TSA is making exceptions for baby formula and medication. Now, if I’m a terrorist, I’m pretty sure that I can get a bottle of medication to hide my “liquid explosives” in. Essentially, the TSA is inconveniencing millions of Americans for no reason at all. If you make exceptions for any reason, then the whole system is worthless.

Here’s what I think they should do: Go back to the system we had a week ago. These ineffective security measures will kill the air travel industry, because no normal customer is going to willingly put up with it. You can’t stop a determined person from bringing liquids onto the airplane, because drug runners have been doing it for years by swallowing them in little plastic bags.

What’s next? Everyone has to get their stomachs pumped at the airport and endure a full body cavity search?

You can’t stop it, so quit hurting the millions of innocent air travelers by trying.