Technology will be the weapons in the wars of the future. Intelligent robots might lead the charge. Their deployment will have many advantages, minimising human casualties being just one of them. Minefields can be cleared and unexploded bombs deactivated much more quickly and from remote locations. Robots will make it easier to do tedious, long-term surveillance jobs like border patrol where human attention might turn lax after a while. Naturally, governments across the world are investing resources to explore new frontiers with robot soldiers.
Today’s robots are largely remote-controlled with little onboard intelligence. But the inflection point is near where artificial intelligence and deep learning will help future robots assess situations and make on-the-spot decisions to respond without any human intervention. This will open up new frontiers on their deployment. Equipped with a range of systems like GPS, navigation sensors, collision detection software, etc, these robots would be able to engage in combat autonomously. So far, soldier robots — designed to help soldiers on the battlefield — were mostly transported in backpacks and deployed on the field when required.
In the future, they may not necessarily look like a humanoid. Depending on the requirement, military robots would come in different shapes and sizes. They might have tank treads to tackle difficult terrain. There might be flying robots that look more like airplanes.
Some might be in the form of big trucks or bulldozers. Robo-soldiers would be costlier than humans. But they could still be cheaper in the long run as machines would not need health and retirement benefits.
They would also remain diligent despite doing repetitive jobs over long hours.
But some questions about robo-soldiers still have to be answered conclusively. For example, veterans say a battle is won more in the mind than on the field. When those robots take away critical human emotions — like fear, for example — how will that shape the outcome on a battlefield? Or, how do you build trust and camaraderie between a soldier and a robo-soldier? Or, what will shape the role of a commander leading a platoon of robots?
There is also an interesting experiment that the US Army is exploring — the idea of human-machine fusion by creating high-tech cyborg warriors. With direct neural enhancement — using chip implants or wearable devices — the project wants to enhance soldiers’ senses and muscular strength.
So will these robots be more effective in a war? We hope we don’t find out.
This story is part of the ‘Tech that can change your life in the next decade’ package
Source: Economic Times