Are you ready for things to get really scary when it comes to robots? Too late: we’re already there.
Boston Dynamics, the Google-owned company that has become famous for releasing unnerving videos of its prototypes in action, has gone and done it again.
This time the robot’s nickname is “Handle”, and the promo video will give you an idea of just how agile and powerful Handle really is. Imagine being hunted by this thing:
Although not specifically billed as combat robots, seemingly every single Boston Dynamics creation could easily be repurposed into something much deadlier than a human soldier. It seems inevitable that militaries around the world will be deploying the descendants of Boston Dynamics’ current crop of bots in the not-too-distant future.
You might remember the first Boston Dynamics robot that got everyone’s attention, known as “Big Dog”. Big Dog was so lifelike in its movements that some people had a hard time watching it getting kicked by a researcher, who was just trying to demonstrate its agility. To be clear, Big Dog feels nothing when kicked, and would probably feel even less if it was programmed to track you down and kill you:
We’ve all been primed by Hollywood movies to imagine a future in which advanced robotics become the main tool of warfare, by movie franchises like Terminator and RoboCop. It increasingly seems that this future is just over the horizon.
Even now, armed drones have become the weapon of choice for targeted assassinations by major superpowers intervening in the Middle East and Central Asia. And while ground-based robots have a more difficult set of challenges than do their airborne counterparts, mostly for reasons of stability, they are quickly gaining ground.
Another member of the Boston Dynamics bestiary, known as “Atlas,” raises a different concern entirely, namely: that a robot could be taking your job away in the near future. Although it’s true that automation has been sapping jobs from the manufacturing sector for decades now, most of the classic assembly-line robots were very specialized for one task only.
Atlas, on the other hand, is more of a generalist, as you can see in this demo:
Even professionals like doctors and lawyers are not safe from the advances of tech, although in their cases the threats come more from A.I. programs like Watson and Ross, who are already touted as being able to do much better than doctors and lawyers on certain tasks.
Let’s hope that humans are able to keep these things from getting out of control in the area of employment. But as for concerns about combat robots, the temptation seems so great that an arms race is almost inevitable.
Of course, there are upsides to having robot soldiers — fewer human soldiers dying, for one thing. But that won’t give you much comfort if you’re ever being chased by a combat robot a few years down the road. And those ones will be much more advanced than the current crop.
It’s a brave new world we live in.
Via The Guardian.