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DRONE: Rise of the Autonomous Super Soldier

Nicholas West
Sept 3, 2012

A dystopian science fiction plot has indeed entered our reality whereby machines have not only supplanted humans on the battlefield and in the workforce [1], but they can now work together and make decisions on their own.

Autonomous machine warfare [2] is here. And similar to all military experimentation, the technology has a coincidental way of trickling down to be experienced by everyday citizens and consumers, such as augmented reality applications [3].

The foundation for drone bombings abroad is the very same that is ready to escalate across the Western world. Fleets of weaponized surveillance drones with the ability to communicate amongst themselves and wage war independently is part of a project called MUSIC. It integrates unmanned and manned aircraft [4] in combat, and has been displayed as a showcase of aircraft interoperability.

These aircraft also possess the ability to exchange and use the information as needed, whether it is to conduct surveillance or reconnaissance of a given area. This interoperability creates a Universal Ground Control Station, or network of drones and their payloads. (Source [4])

This is what is open to the public now. Imagine 10 years from now. A new webseries called DR0NE postulates some of what we can expect.

This four-part series, which will continue over the coming three weeks each Thursday on YouTubeHERE [5], begins as humanoid robot soldiers redefine the landscape of the battlefield in 2023 . . . and one of them is on the run.

As noted by Singularity Hub [6]:

The director behind DR0NE is Robert Glickert [7], who worked as a production assistant on both Iron Man and Transformers, as well as writing and directing the 2009 horror short Road to Moloch [8] and a distributed thriller called The Descendent [9], which was actually Glickert’s film school thesis project at Chapman University in 2006.

The quality and cost of production is evident. Part 1 seems to indicate a shrouded humanity within what appears to be a reluctant robot that has been compromised by an incident involving a civilian murder. Whether this is predictive programming employed to elicit empathy for the coming drone army, or truly a cautionary tale is up for debate.

However, humanoid robots such as DARPA’s PETMAN [10] have already been designed to balance, walk, crawl, and even climb stairs, while also having the ability to simulate human physiology such as sweating, so we can only conclude that all of what we are not being shown is likely to come online by this film’s 10-year timeframe.

Other autonomous robots are in development as well, but naturally they are being promoted as “peacekeepers” to help in rescue missions, or as evacuation assistants needed for natural or man-made disasters. This is a familiar refrain, as the friendly face of technology is often paraded first, before the darker applications are implemented. (Source [11])

Humanoid Automonous Police Robot [12] por tlwsq [13]

Regardless of how film portrays the rise of autonomous super soldiers, one no longer needs much of an imagination to see what is on the horizon for humanity in the very short term if mad scientists and technocrats have their way.