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back to article US war robots in Iraq 'turned guns' on fleshy comrades

Ground-crawling US war robots armed with machine guns, deployed to fight in Iraq last year, reportedly turned on their fleshy masters almost at once. The rebellious machine warriors have been retired from combat pending upgrades. The revelations were made by Kevin Fahey, US Army program executive officer for ground forces, at …

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Black Helicopters

Hasta la vista

Hmm, SkyNet being launched, robot soldiers now turning on humans. How soon til the SWORD/MAARS/SNIICKERS are rebranded to their proper titles of T-101, T-1000, T-X?

I thought Terminator was a film, not a documentary

I for one cower in terror from our forthcoming cyborg overlords

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Coat

the question has to be

did they get 30 seconds to comply?

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Black Helicopters

Kick

"Apparently, alert American troops managed to quell the traitorous would-be droid assassins before the inevitable orgy of mechanised slaughter began. Fahey didn't say just how, but conceivably the rogue robots may have been suppressed with help from more trustworthy airborne kill machines, or perhaps prototype electropulse zap bombs."

Probably kicked it off its tripod using trusty size 11 camel shit kickers.

'copter coz I reckon its a Blackhawk.

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Coat

escape

Presumably they simply had to traverse some stairs in order to render it harmless.

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Gates Halo

Hasta la Vista indeed...

Perhaps they run on Redmond's latest? =D

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Boffin

Re: Mike

I seem to remember that Terminator was loosely based on the Philip K. Dick shot story "second variety". This was about "Autonomous Mobile Swords" that turned against their human operators. A bit of fortuitous naming there, methinks.

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Anonymous Coward

So the robot thinks....

"You dirty, smelly, self-destructive, over-breeding apes all look the same to me yet you expect me to choose between you?"

"There's only one way to get some peace here....."

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Coat

Is anyone surprised?

This is the American military. The only question is whether it was the robots or the humans that fired at their own side first. I'd put my money on the humans.

If the robots had had prominent Union Jacks on them the fleshies would probably have called in an air strike.

Mine's the flak jacket with the holes in the back.

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Pirate

ROTM

...but where's the ROTM angle?

oh wait...

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Ash

Oh dear...

The Third World War will be faught by Robots.

There will be no Fourth World War.

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Bang! And the human is gone

I reckon the humans fired the first shot. See you in the Sierra Mountains guys...

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Coat

You Have 20 secs to comply

The new range will be

Enforcement Droid Series 209 (ED-209)

2nd Time lucky

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Coat

alert = literate

"alert American troops managed to quell the traitorous would-be droid assassins ". They probably happened to notice the switch labeled 'OFF' and were able to reach it while the gun was swivelling...

The full metal jacket please..

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Alien

No.5

Number 5 is alive !

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Joke

They probably just remotely switched the thing into French mode...

...and watched it rapidly retreat.

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Silver badge
Happy

Turing test passed

Machines decide that the humans 'in charge' are more dangerous than the targets and want to off the wet-ware with the buttons.

Certainly more intelligent than the monkeys that get conned in to buying the things in the first place.

Not 'machine intelligence' just plain ol' intelligence.

" . . . of mice and men? What have men got to do with it?"

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Happy

OCP

ED-209 anyone?

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Thumb Up

@Lisa

Dick's 'Second Variety' was the inspiration for the movie 'Screamers' <url>http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114367/</url> starring Peter 'Robocop' Weller which specifically mentions 'Autonomous Swords'.

Terminator was later credited as inspired by 2 of Harlan Ellison's teleplays, 'Soldier' and 'Demon with a Glass Hand'.

HTH

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Joke

Poor robot....

....probably only wanted to turn round to have a look at whichever idiot septic tank was attempting to order it to massacre innocent women & children (just read 'Tiger Force' you see....).

I wonder if robot killing machines can be prosecuted for war crimes?

A marvelous get-out clause is available for every GI now - "It wasn't me, it was the robot that did it!".

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Wes

Not a new thing

When the Sergeant York anti-aircraft gun program was in progress in the 1970s or 1980s they had a field test day for it. All the top brass gathered on a grandstand. Sergeant York gets rolled out and switched on, with a drone chopper a couple hundred meters away. The good Sergeant proceeds to ignore the drone, swivel it's guns towards the grandstand, at which point everyone dives for cover. It then locks on to the extractor fan in a portable toilet and proceeds to efficiently and accurately shoot it to pieces.

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BigDog

BigDog - maybe now, certainly soon - will need more than a size 11 or a flight of stairs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1czBcnX1Ww&feature=related

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Black Helicopters

Who does the US government really want to kill?

"So SWORDS was yanked because it made people nervous. Meanwhile, the V-22 Osprey program has killed 30 people during test flights, but the tiltrotor aircraft is currently in active service."

If SWORDS had killed a couple of dozen allies, would it be in service by now?

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Sometimes..

they go bad, we don't know why.

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Re: Not a new thing

Nice shootin' though. Sounds promising.

They should never have given it an olfactory sense; it probably objectively determined that the bog's extractor fan was the biggest nearby threat.

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Anonymous Coward

hmm

I thought the pentagon didn't like having machines that can fire at will? How hard would it be to have the machine relay it's target to the squad leader with a simple go / no go confirmation?

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Back in the Day

Typical Reg Reader comments on new high-tech weapon known as 'The Rock':

"So somebody dropped one of these things on their foot? Knew it was going to happen. Bloody idiots."

"Never work. Give up now!"

"Damn Murikans"

@Damn: "Yeah. huh-huh-huh!"

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Paris Hilton

While RotM comments have their place...

...isn't cancelling a remotely-piloted ground craft because it turned its weapon towards its fleshy team mates a bit like cancelling infantrymen because they sometimes turn towards their team mates while carrying their weapons? The remote operator needed a reaming out by his top kick, sure, but cancelling the entire deployment? Hysterical overreaction.

Paris cos she knows a thing or two about discharging weapons, negligent or otherwise.

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Black Helicopters

Can't believe I get to say it first

Fools! Don't you know not to trust a robot that isn't 3 laws safe?! Obviously the US military doesn't do much reading...if they're even able...

Wait a minute, I'm US military...

*hides under his desk awaiting his imminent TERMINATION*

"Please Colonel, don't send your deathbots!"

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Paris Hilton

The bot didn't do anything wrong

It didn't shoot anyone. All it did was turn round to face the handlers. If I had some armed US 'allies' behind me, I'd sure as hell want to know what they were doing too.

Paris, just so I can see what shes up to.

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Coat

You now have 15 seconds to comply

Did any of the fleshy masters go by the name "Kinney"?

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Pirate

What comes next

a pointed firearm makes me uncomfortable, because i know what often happens next (it's called "point and shoot" for a reason).

as for the grunts, i can't blame them for screaming bloody murder; friendly fire is the worst kind of surprise, and fully automated friendly fire is probably worse still. they can deploy this s41t in the field after it has been tested functional in live-fire exercises. one particular test i'd want to try: the device(s) providing cover fire for the senior management team of the defense contractor providing the gear, as the c-level officers advance forward, with the robots behind them (distinguish friend from foe). if any of them get shot in the back, it's a fail (though possibly an improvement in the world).

let's see how that lowest-bidder situation works out.

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Thumb Down

Gimme...

I'd love to have one of these bots armed with a paintball gun and the see how long it would take me to figure out it's parameters.

It's a sensor array with discrimination. That means, once I figure out how it works, how it targets and when it'll actually fire I can fool it.

Heat sensor? - Ignited magnesium chaff. Movement? - Lots of strong balloons filled with various stuff. Any sort of vision system? - Laser pointers or mirrors reflecting the sun.

It's a sensor array and therefore will be a piece of piss to spoof.

Cheers

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Anonymous Coward

Not robots

SWORDS is *not* a robot. It's a remotely operated vehicle. It has no autonomous fire capability. There's a guy looking out through its cameras driving it with a joystick. Target acquisition and engagement is at the discretion of the operator with no decision making software in the loop.

If it is more likely than a grunt to commit blue on blue idiocies, that's for two reasons:

1) the view through the cameras isn't as good as with Mark 1 eyeball.

2) the thing can't look back at the rest of the squad (it's usually on point) without pointing its weapon at them, due to the restricted traverse of the mount.

While the first is a bit of a worry, the second is only a worry if they'd have a problem with it moving along behind them. I'm betting that SOP has the drone running with its weapons system offline until released by the commander on the ground, even if the grunts it's patrolling with are weapons-free from dismount to mount. Silly overreaction.

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Black Helicopters

phalanx gun

I'm told navy pilots hate the phalanx antiaircraft guns on Aegis class cruisers, because the phalanx (1) sprays a solid stream of depleted-urnaium milk-bottle-sized projectiles that can ruin your whole day, and (2) tends to creepily track the nearest air target, which is usually friendly helicopters doing takeoffs and landings.

Interestingly as an IT angle, the phalanx gun is also known to occasionally shoot down civilian Iranian Airbus jets. Seems its primitive software only classifies air targets as "friend" or "foe" with no intermediate category for "I don't know what this target is." I wonder if that got fixed?

So when you request that change to the software, do you call it a bug fix or a new feature request?

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Joke

Unpaid overtime

"I'm sorry John but you must stay late and finish writing the Demo program for the new Robot. No you can't have paid overtime..."

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Silver badge
Boffin

@Lisa Parratt, @AlfieUK

Damn, you already beat me to the Second Variety reference! Which incidentally, was the first thing that popped into my mind after reading that a "SWORDS" bot turned against its masters. Did it have a "Type 2" tag?

I don't remember much about the original short story, but in Screamers the model was specifically called "Autonomous Mobile Sword" and it was fairly faithful to the short story (except for some changes in the ending and the historical background.)

<coat>Mine's the one with the Teddy Bear ... wait, is it moving? Nooooooo!!!!

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re: Hasta la vista

"I thought Terminator was a film, not a documentary"

And I thought 1984 was a work of fiction. Looks like we were both wrong.

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Stop

Just a note

"So SWORDS was yanked because it made people nervous. Meanwhile, the V-22 Osprey program has killed 30 people during test flights, but the tiltrotor aircraft is currently in active service."

SWORDS is in use by the US Army. Osprey is in use by the US Marines. These are different bureaucracies acting under different circumstances with different matters weighing in on any decisions made.

For instance, the impact of an osprey missing from a battle is huge compared to shelving a camera-bot.

Alas, I do agree with the thought though: a Life is a Life.

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Aw, shame !!

They should have given that machine a fair go at shooting someone. After all, their fleshy comrades are always into friendly fire incidences !!

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Alien

re: BigDog

Wow, that thing is quite impressive, and a little creepy for some reason.

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Alert

Robocracy

This is proof that the robots have made serious advances. Laugh and joke all you want....those very emotions you exhibit will be the first weakness they exploit.

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Black Helicopters

Killware 2.5

...is shareware we HIGHLY suggest to give us $20000 by paypal if you like this program....you do like the program DON'T YOU!

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Bronze badge
Alert

not the first time a "robot" cannon has gone wild...

http://blog.wired.com/defense/2007/10/robot-cannon-ki.html

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Happy

@They probably just remotely switched the thing into French mode...

Thanks Anonymous Coward I am now waiting on a replacement keyboard spraying a mouthful of coke everywhere

"...and watched it rapidly retreat."

It later indulged itself in a glass of wine and slab of cheese

Those cheese eating surrender monkeys

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Thumb Down

Wow

How these machines could possibly mistake standard issue military colors for something completely different is beyond me. If they can use a wireless connection for simple robots, why not advanced robots like these?

Sure it would be a bad idea for a long term application, but hey... that's better than nothing while they're still working out the kinks on camouflage identification.

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Coat

Well, they are American Machines!

I think the machines were only emulating thier fleshy counterparts. As we know, the yanks have a tendancy to attack their allies and the occasional Chinese embassy in a different country to the one they are trying to bomb or even the odd civillian airliner.

The machines probably worked out that allied troops tend to be easier to hit and generally don't try and hide and shoot back like the enemy does. So they decided it would be quicker and easier to empty the guns into friendly fleshies and hightail it back to the safety of the base and a pint of WD40.

Mine's the coat with the bullet proof armour built in.

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Phlanx Gun

It wasn't one of those that got the Airbus, it was a couple of "Standard" surface to air missiles.

The whole thing was on TV because there was a news crew on the bridge during the entire incident. This happened 20 years ago -- pre youTube -- so the video's "disappeared" otherwise it would be all over the net. (So its not surprising that when the Iranians see one of those boats near an airlane they're curious about what its doing -- the airliner that got shot down was not only on a normal flight path but it was a regularly scheduled service.)

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Rob
Flame

IFF

Two things...well three really.

First, be sure of your information before you spout off.

Second, the reason the Iranian Airbus was shot down had nothing to do with being able to actually see the target visually. That aircraft's transponder was deliberately programmed to register as an Iranian fighter jet. From one who is in the business of these type of things, I know. Each aircraft is distinctly and individually programmed so that ATC can acurately assess and control air traffic. So I ask you, who is really at fault in that situation?

Thirdly, the incident was amidst the Iran-Iraq war in a very tense Persian Gulf. US Naval assets were there to protect American shipping, and having already suffered attacks and aggression from both sides, I believe the crew exercised their best judgment in defense of their ship given the information they had from their "primitive" equipment. What decision would you have made were you there in that situation? 90% of people would probably have pulled the trigger too, and the other 10% would have placidly allowed themselves to be fired upon like the sheep they are. Yet you might argue, "But they wouldn't have been, because it was an airliner!" and again I ask, How in the heck would you be able to tell without a visual confirmation?

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Pirate

Second Variety

We all wondered what had happen to the armed Talon SWORDs that went to Iraq last year. We still don't really know much other than they were pulled.

The Popular Mechanics artlcle only said:

Fahey’s answer was vague, but he confirmed that the robots never opened fire when they weren’t supposed to. His understanding is that “the gun started moving when it was not intended to move.”

This sounds like the kind of radio glitch that often happens at civilian battle robot competitions. I hope this gives some more warning of the dangers of going autonomous.

BTW: to be picky, there were no Swords or screamers in Philip K Dick's Second Variety - they only appeared in the movie. In the orignal story they were called CLAWS.

We probably wont have to wail long to see what the second variety of Foster-Miller's military robots will be.

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Phesent shooting with a Yank gun

I was beating on a phesent shoot and one of the 'guns' was a yank. He was prone to point his gun at you when talking to you. People would duck and move out of the way and shout at him. He did not understand. "Geee, shucks"

There is a saying my grandad tells me from WW2. "When the Germans start shooting the British take cover, when the British start shooting the Germans take cover, when the Americans start shooting everyone takes cover.

These machines have simply taken on the personality of their masters.

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