November 30, 2007

ARMED FORCES JOURNAL - Who decides: Man or machine? - November 2007

File under one of the two headings (your choice):

File One: The Automobile will never replace the all versatile horse!

File Two: Hasta la vista, baby

ARMED FORCES JOURNAL - Who decides: Man or machine? - November 2007: "Already, numerous robots in Iraq and Afghanistan are show¬ing utility in counter-IED efforts and can significantly enhance a soldier’s ability to clear a hostile building. Similarly, semi-robotic UAVs provide imagery on enemy movements, as well as fire pre¬cision-guided weapons at enemy targets. Without a doubt, tech¬nology is providing a notable utility to the combat soldier. However, the version of warfare elucidated by some defense experts could lead to a dangerous misunderstand¬ing of the appropriate use and utility of technology in war¬fare. director John Pike was quoted in the Arizona Daily Star as saying, “By the end of the century, there will be virtually no humans on the battlefield. ... Robots do what you tell them, and they don’t have to be trained.” He emphasized that casualties wouldn’t be a prob¬lem because when a robot gets hit, you just take it to the repair shop. Another expert, Robert Finkelstein, president of Robotic Technology Inc., was quoted as saying that in the future, “there can be a robot cognitively as good as humans” at fighting on the battlefield “somewhere between 2020 and 2030.” Such statements are dan¬gerous, because men discon¬nected from the realities of warfare may sway decision-makers re"


Col. Lee Fetterman, training and doctrine capabilities man¬ager for FCS, said he sees potential for robots to significantly increase the Army’s ability to detect the enemy or target, deliv¬er the ordnance necessary to destroy the target and assess the effects of the attack. However, in the design of the systems that will employ robots, Fetterman said he believes an important potential capability should not be employed: the “decide” component.

“The function that robots cannot perform for us — that is, the function we should not allow them to perform for us — is the decide function. Men should decide to kill other men, not machines,” he said. “This is a moral imperative that we ignore at great peril to our humanity. We would be morally bereft if we abrogate our responsibility to make the life-and-death decisions required on a battlefield as leaders and sol¬diers with human compassion and understanding. This is not something we would do. It is not in concert with the American spirit.”

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