Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rolling Battle-Bots and Limited Freedoms -- The Future is Coming and It's Terrifying

George Bush, Killer Robot

A grim sci-fi future is coming faster than we think, and it's not going to be cool at all. I love dirty visions of a repressive robot-patrolled future when I'm watching them in air-conditioned comfort, but the painful reality of it is coming. I swear to you that every geek is going to snap his Robocop special edition in half with bitter, Mountain Dew flavored tears when the days of true Terminators come -- and it's going to happen in our lifetime, too.

From Wired's Danger Room:

After years of development, three "special weapons observation remote reconnaissance direct action system" (SWORDS) robots have deployed to Iraq, armed with M249 machine guns. The 'bots "haven't fired their weapons yet," Michael Zecca, the SWORDS program manager, tells DANGER ROOM. "But that'll be happening soon."

Robots occupy exactly the same position in our culture now that personal computer did in the late 70's, with this critical difference: they're going to develop a LOT faster. We can share information and build communities better than ever before. Scientists, hobbyists and madmen are already standing on each others' shoulders at light speed to create machines that think like us, act like us, and carry out our little desires -- and it's only going to speed up.

Wars propel technical innovation. Soldiers bring their tools home and adapt them into tools for the mass culture. Look at all the Humvees on the streets, the hunters hunting with M-16s, the camo cargo shorts that I'm wearing right now. These 'bots, or the chips that power their metal guts at least, are going to make their way onto the streets and into homes by the time I've old enough to have grandkids.

And as you all should know by now, the Bush administration bent America over and helped themselves to the power to spy on us like never before over the weekend. From the Washington Post:

Many congressional Democrats wanted tighter restrictions on government surveillance, but yielded in the face of Bush's veto threats and the impending August recess.

"This bill would grant the attorney general the ability to wiretap anybody, any place, any time without court review, without any checks and balances," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., during the debate preceding the vote. "I think this unwarranted, unprecedented measure would simply eviscerate the 4th Amendment," which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

I know it sounds paranoid, crazy even. I know this might brand me as a frothing blogger nut. But something tells me I'm right here. Think about it:

How long do you think it would take before Bush -- or Giulani, or whoever they tell us we voted for -- puts these things on the streets of New York to "protect us from terrorists?" How long before our phone conversations flag us as terrorists and these things are sent to the GPS coordinates that are in every cell call?

Imagine making a joke to against freedom to a friend in another country while you're walking home from the subway -- and having these things roll up on you. They can't hear your argument, and there's no human behind the armor to ease off the trigger.

Yeah, I'm a sci-fi nerd. But I like it best when it stays FICTION.

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At 11:07 PM, Blogger Dan said...

Ooo... robots!

You will learn to embrace your robot overlords, Jeff. If not, then you will be tasked with lubing their gunked up servos.

Aside from that, my phone's been tapped for a while now since I've been discussing landscape plans with my Dutch friends overseas. Seriously, when I say "that bush has got to be taken out this weekend," I know someone's sweating.

At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Democrats own both houses of Congress and passed that law. Bush merely signed what they created, so it's more like he got the sloppy seconds in the bending over of lady liberty.

At 4:59 PM, Anonymous boheme said...

I think you may be worrying a little bit too much. We are so incredibly far from cognitive artificial intelligence, and even further from packaging it into some sort of self-sufficient mobile death machine as described in films like Terminator. Not to mention, the machines you mentioned are ROV's, mere puppets, and not cognizant robots. Honestly, maybe you should check how you're wired before you start proclaiming the robot uprising is near.

I personally think the biggest threat our modern technologies have is the potential for misinformation to be spread via the internet faster than ever before, as well as the lack of education in most Americans concerning technology. But that's another story.


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