Thursday, Nov 26th, 2009
Controversy erupted when reports emerged that the Pentagon was close to completing a robot designed to forage for its own fuel by consuming “biomass in the environment,” raising concerns that the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR) might be intended to fuel itself from the bodies of the dead.
The EATR was designed by Robotic Technology Inc. (RTI), in cooperation with Cyclone Power Technologies Inc.
According to RTI, EATR is an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance military missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling. The patent pending robotic system can find, ingest and extract energy from biomass in the environment, as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, diesel, propane and solar) when suitable.”
The vagueness of the term “biomass” led many commentators to ask whether the Pentagon was actually developing a cannibal killer robot. Responding to such allegations, RTI insisted that the robot will be programmed to consume only vegetable matter.
“Despite the far-reaching reports that [“biomass”] includes “human bodies,” the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips – small, plant-based items for which RTI’s robotic technology is designed to forage. Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions.”
RTI president Bob Finkelstein was vague as to how the robots would be programmed to avoid human or animal flesh.
“There are certain signatures from different kinds of materials,” he said.
Even if the robot does not feed on humans, its use may still constitute a war crime.
“The robot steamers are envisaged as being equipped with powerful articulated arms in order to rip trees or bushes out of the earth and stuff them into their glowing maws,” wrote Lewis Page in The Register.
“By way of a treat, it seems that the machines will also be able to loot or forage more conventional fuel supplies from the petrol tanks of cars,” he wrote. “Hapless drivers or householders will be in no position to object to such robotic plundering.”
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This article was posted: Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 5:09 am