The Real Robot Threat

The Real Robot Threat, by Robert Zubrin.

In the fall of 1989, the peoples of Eastern Europe rose up against their Communist oppressors. The tyrants ruling these nations had no moral compunction about shooting their subjects down, but fortunately, they couldn’t count on their armed forces to do it. So the Iron Curtain fell, and two years later, even the mighty Soviet Union was brought down when the Red Army, sent into Moscow, refused the orders of those attempting to brutally reinstate Stalinist rule.

But imagine what might have occurred had those soldiers been not human beings but robots, lacking in any sympathy or humanity, ready, willing, and able to reliably massacre anyone the authorities chose to be their targets.

This is the threat posed by the emerging technology known as “autonomous weapons.”

For decades, science fiction has speculated on the theme of robot servants rising up to overwhelm their human masters. Such scenarios remain fantasy, because they require self-reproducing machines with a will to power and the ability and desire to cooperate with each other to carry off a grand collective design — which at this point, anyway, is still quite far-fetched.

Instead what we have seen are drone weapons, most typically aircraft, under human command, executing reconnaissance and strike operations by remote control. …

Armies and bureaucracies attempt to turn people into machines who will obey their commanders. But they are imperfect machines, because their inner voice of conscience remains. Not so drones and robots.