Elon Musk has been talking about killer robots for a while, as +Daniel Estrada points out in a Google+ post today. Daniel seems to think that Elon is doing this for maybe a tech reason, or maybe because he’s seen something that frightens him. There are certainly human rights watch organizations concerned about killer robots.
By 2015, the Predator drone will have been in use by the US armed forces for 20 years. This makes a difference, apparently, because it is piloted by a human. Well, sort of. It uses human targeting and approval for killing. Is the presence of a pilot really that reassuring, when the pilot is piloting a weapon from so far away that said pilot is not taking any risk with his own life at all?
Because I’ve seen some pretty scary old technology, I would imagine the defense department almost certainly has at least a prototype terminator by now, 20 years later. All you need is a Big Dog, and atop that big dog, all you need is Google’s autonomous driving technology. This tech can be simplified; if it’s a killer robot, it doesn’t care who it runs into. If you watched the video, you know that it can auto-correct its own gait after stomping on a skull. Chase people through forests. And generally do all kinds of Terminator-y stuff.
Included with that big dog and self-driving technology, all you need is a projectile weapon attached to – wait for it – insane mode AI from first person shooters, with controls hooked up to fast robotics.
Granted, the thing won’t run on batteries that long. Let’s, then, give it the ability to plug itself into random outlets to recharge. To open cars and drain their batteries, or visit a power station.
Maybe, if you want, give it the ability to release a swarm of poisonous insect drones.
My point: killer robots don’t even /need/ general AI, or the kind of AI that can take over the world like in Transcendence. Killer robots can be made modularly. If you have the time to dedicate a pilot to it, it gets a bunch of times deadlier and sneakier, too.
So, I don’t think Musk is missing the mark here. We aren’t just close to killer robots. The probability is that some defense department somewhere already has one, and is working on making it even more indestructible and intimidating and sneaky than it already is.
Of course, the argument might be made that drones are already sufficient for the type of terror Musk is talking about. In which case, why is he talking about it when it already exists?
Anyway, though it belongs to a private company, at least one version of the demon’s already been summoned. Now we have to trust people to like each other, because ultimately people control these things. That’s the really scary thing.
But in case you do find yourself running from a killer robot, an elevator might be a good place to hide. If the robot cuts the cables, here is how you can survive the fall.