An expert in 21st century warfare, P.W. Singer discussed military robots and robotic systems, and the ramifications of their usage. Some examples in the battlefield include unmanned spy planes such as the Predator, which sends video and infrared data to human operators, and Packbots, small mobile robots (made by the company that manufactures the Roomba) that seek out and find IED bombs.
A military experiment demonstrated that when soldiers conducted war games with robots, the teams that had robots designed with personalities did better than the teams whose robots didn't have personalities. Soldiers are starting to build bonds with their robots, and they've even taken risks to save them, Singer reported. Science-fiction has often accurately predicted changes in technology, and has served as a catalyst for robotic designers and the military, he commented.
The use of machinery to conduct our wars marks a big change in the way it's been done for the last 5,000 years, he noted. Israel's war with the Hezbollah in Lebanon was the first time that both sides used unmanned drones. Among the ethical questions Singer posed: Does robotic technology make it easier to go to war? Will soldiers controlling robots make decisions they wouldn't if they were actually at the combat site?
First hour guest, Dr. Marc Siegel spoke about deadly bacterial infections such as a recent case where a Brazilian model had to have her hands and feet amputated. Had the model's infection been diagnosed earlier, she may have been able to avoid the amputation, he said. The overuse of antibiotics is creating more aggressive strains of bacteria, he added.
In Noah Shachtman's just published article for Danger Room, he profiles a captain in the Israeli Air Force who uses infrared footage sent from an unarmed spy drone to make decisions about airstrikes.
Bumper music from Thursday January 22, 2009