Trump will have to decide fate of ‘killer robot’ technology during first year of term

METHOD-1, a bipedal robot that houses a human pilot, is under development by Korea Future Technology. The robots creators said its intended use is for utilitarian applications. (Vitaly Bulgarov's Instagram video below)

The United States became the first country to have an official policy on autonomous weapon systems in 2012 when it released Department of Defense Directive 3000.09 in 2012.

The directive, which establishes DoD policy and assigns responsibilities for the development and use of autonomous and semi-autonomous functions in weapon systems, including manned and unmanned platforms,” is set to expire in 2017.

According to report by the International Committee for Robot Arms:

This policy is basically, “Let the machines target other machines; Let men target men.” Since the most compelling arms-race pressures will arise from machine-vs.-machine confrontation, this solution is a thin blanket, but it suggests some level of sensitivity to the issue of robots targeting humans without being able to exercise “human judgment” — a phrase that appears repeatedly in the DoD Directive.

The Trump administration has until November 21, 2017 to reissue, cancel, or certify the current directive. If the administration fails to act the directive will stay current until 2022.

While Trump has made many references to what many considered controversial use of the military’s force, which has included the use of nuclear weapons and waterboarding, his appointments for Secretary of Defense and National Security adviser have taken much different stances.

During Trump’s first meeting with his pick for Secretary of Defense, retired Gen. Mattis told him he did not believe his assertions about bringing back the use of waterboarding were incorrect.

After his meeting, Trump told the New York Times, “He said — I was surprised — he said, ‘I’ve never found it (waterboarding) to be useful.’ He said, ‘I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.'”

When it comes to the use of drones, the unmanned aerial technology at the forefront of the moral debate over the use of robotic technology in warfare, Trump’s pick for National Security adviser has been outspoken about the ineffectiveness of drones.

During an interview with Mehdi Hasan of al-Jazeera, retired Army Lt. Gen Michael Flynn said that night raids and drone strikes created more terrorists than they kill.

“I think that we have invested in, in more conflict instead of actually investing in solutions. So, and when I say that, what I mean is that we invest in more drones, we invest in more bombs, we invest in more weapons, we invest in more ammunition, we invest in more guys to go out and kill more guys. That’s investing in conflict, instead of really taking a serious look and say, ‘What … what are the big excuses that these guys are using?’ And if it’s lack of, you know, if it’s poor economic conditions, if it’s poor social conditions, then let’s fix those. But those kinds of things aren’t gonna get fixed overnight. And the leaders of the Middle East have to decide that that’s what they want to do.”

While Flynn took a hard stance against the use of drones as being an effective tool for ending conflict, some have speculated Trump’s pick for Secretary of Defense will have a much different opinion.

A report by Solomon Hughes of Vice News, suggests that Mattis’s role as a board member of General Dynamics, which holds DoD contracts for drone manufacturing and drone footage analyzing, will have a strong influence over any decisions he makes.

If the Trump administration decides to change the current directive, which could authorize the development and fielding of fully autonomous lethal weapons which do engage human targets, the strong involvement of private corporations raises many fears.

In July of last year, it was revealed by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, that DoD contracts -which include General Dynamics- had placed corporate employees alongside service members to analyze top secret battlefield intelligence.

“Though private contractors don’t formally take life and death decisions – only military personnel pilot armed drones and take final targeting decisions – there is concern they could effectively creep in to this function without more robust oversight,” Hughes reported.

Thank you all very much for kind comments and positive response! To answer one of the most common questions what is this for I’ll just say for now that from a mechanical/software/hardware/electric engineering stand point it was quite an ambitious project that required developing and enhancing a lot of technologies along the way. That growth opens up many real world applications where everything we have been learning so far on this robot can be applied to solve real world problems. (I’m not just talking bipedal robots) One of such projects is already in development, but I’m not allowed to say more at this moment. For those who thought it was fake here is a phone video where I walked too close to it and had to be pulled back lol #koreafuturetechnology #robot #mech #walktest

A video posted by Vitaly Bulgarov (@vitalybulgarov) on

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