Slippery Slopes from Bullets to Bots

This is a bit out of date, but a June in-depth piece in The Economist’s Technology Quarterly, March of the Robots, talks about the future role of diverse robots in war. One of the interesting qualities of future robots is that they break boundaries, blurring distinctions that were once well-defined between different types of devices, appliances, even companions.  This article mentions the U.K.’s purchase of the french Fire Shadow systems, which is a perfect example of boundary-busting thanks to robotics. Fire Shadows are loitering munitions. You fire them, but they ignore that old parabolic arc law. They circle the sky for hours, and land only when you tell them to strike at a particulary time and place. Is it a large bullet, or a remote control Kamikaze? As autonomy further miniaturizes, just how far will loitering take classical tools of war? In a strange way, robotics can lead to disentangling cause and effect’s fast pace, creating action and reaction across longer time scales as the effects of war’s actions are felt, not all at once, but dispersed over the decisions of commanders’ remote thoughts over hours, maybe even days and weeks eventually? Strange futures await us.


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