While I think we are still a long way away from having autonomous killer robots trudging around the world waiting for Skynet to become self-aware, it has been a somewhat big topic lately. This is mostly due to people, justifiably, freaking out over the thought of remorseless killing machines becoming the go to move for everything from major wars, to crime prevention, to taking care of people who cut in long lines and then act like you are an asshole for pointing it out.
Ok, that last example is, more truthfully, my personal use for an ED-209. I’m a petty dick when it comes to lines.
I don’t plan on pointing out too much of the horrible and nightmare inducing consequences of filling the world with self-reliant machines that possess the power to kill us. I think movies have done a fair job of making us see every technological advance as the key point on the road to turning humans into giant piles of skulls that some poor Wall-E type non-murderbot will have to dust for all eternity. Years of movies have taught us that any robot that acts on its own will eventually turn on us, or at the very least start randomly killing humans because it can’t distinguish between a BB gun and a real weapon. No sir, that would never happen with a real live thinking human… Nope, not ever…
I think that the good aspects of emotionless murder bots roaming our world are sorely underestimated by the general population, so here we go, some of the positives of killing machines.
Remorse Isn’t Helpful Until Later
First off, when I hear something described as “a remorseless killing machine,” I think “wow, that is a horrible thing to say about a person.” Humans should have remorse, doubt and self-reflection, and without these things people get… scary. Remorse is something that happens after the fact, though. It isn’t something that stops the initial event. So in a “which is shittier” contest between a human who feels remorse after beating a bingo hall full of senior citizens to death with a steel dildo (thank you, George Carlin) and a robot that does not feel remorse after doing the same, for me it’s a draw. Obviously remorse may stop a future event, the human may realize they did something horrible and never want to get in that situation again, maybe avoid Bingo halls all together, while a robot doesn’t personally care and may spend all day shining its murder weapon (heh) while plotting out Grandmas new hangout. A human may also try to rationalize its actions, while a robot doesn’t try to justify what it did or internally change the event to make it less horrible. If the robot did something evil, the humans controlling it will know and, hopefully, let the robot know that a steel dildo is nothing to play around with, preferably by shutting it down.
Robots Don’t Feel Fear
Robots don’t fear for their lives. As long as we don’t program a killer robot to protect its shiny metal ass above all things, it won’t put self-preservation at the top of the list. Humans have a tendency to not want to die. Weird, I know, but for some reason “living” is an option we tend place high on the to-do list. Robots, again depending on what they are programmed to do, do not have this innate fear. Self preservation is only as strong as it is made to be. A big reason police or soldiers, or just random people walking the streets, may kill or injure someone who did not really present a threat to them is because they thought the other person represented harm. It’s natural for a human to act in self defense before they find out if the gun shoots bullets, BBs, or silly string. Discovering that the answer to the question “what is coming at me at a high rate of speed” is “bullets” can really ruin the whole “not getting shot” plan that most humans seem to have. Robots can take the time to analyze whatever is coming their way and act appropriately depending on what it is. An old guy with a BB gun can get off with a stern warning and maybe some professional help instead of a hail of panic induced gunfire. Sure, if someone happens to be traipsing down the road with a Javelin launcher or and RPG, a robot would be toast before it could decide if the thing coming at it was dangerous or not, but thankfully we rarely have to worry about that outside of Afghanistan and Detroit.
The Buddy System Need Not Apply
Robots do not make friends. At first this sounds like a bad thing. Robots lacking the emotional attachment to form interpersonal relationships must be the same type of mechanical monster who would eventually go on a killing spree until it found love in its heart brought on by meeting a cute puppy. At which point dogs then rule the earth with the help of their robot army. You would be correct in assuming that the type of robot in that horrifying, but adorable, but still horrifying (horridorable?) scenario is also the type of robot that can watch endless amounts of its fellow robots get demolished in a warzone and not in any way act differently. It can also watch “friendly”humans be killed and not be filled with the desire to replay the Death Wish movies. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, as no bonds mean no psychological distress. Robots do not get PTSD, and robots do not get the idea that revenge is a thing to do. Desiring vengeance is normal for people, but it doesn’t always end up with the best of outcomes. This also ties in a bit with the notion that robots don’t feel innate fear for their lives, as they also do not react in a more frenzied way if they see other robots, or humans, get killed or injured unless someone has specifically programed them to go all John McClane if they find themselves suddenly losing partners.
Autonomous Killing Machines Generally Have Little To Prove
Robots are emotionless. This is usually seen as a negative in these situations, but that’s only because people think of all the good emotions you would want such as empathy or compassion. A lack of caring personally for others also means that you lose the crappy emotions that tend to get us into trouble, like anger, frustration, intolerance or any vague or well defined feeling of disrespect. A good number of people have had a bad experience with a law enforcement personnel in one form or another, and not just because they ran a red light while high on meth and throwing puppies out the window at passing orphans. Sometimes you may just be walking down the street talking softly to someone when a city cop pulls up angrily berates you for “yelling in the middle of the street”. No link there, that’s just something that happened to me once. I assume the cop heard the people at the bar across the street and we were the first potential noise makers he saw and he assumed any noise must have been from us. Maybe he was having a bad night and was frustrated, and took it out on who he thought he could. The point is, people can react poorly because their emotions are screwing up the situation. I have seen altercations with police come from the officer getting more angry as they feel they aren’t being respected by a citizen, and the citizen get angry that they feel they aren’t being respected by the officer, and they just keep ratcheting up their attitude to prove they won’t be disrespected. The TV show COPS is full of these moments where someone gets arrested because they “mouthed off” too much to the police, and a few of these turn into outright fights caused more by two egos clashing than by any real crime. A machine doesn’t really care if you do not like it, and it doesn’t react poorly to a situation because it had a bad day or it doesn’t like the tone of the person talking to it. Yes, this can be disconcerting to the humans it interacts with and make them feel worse or react worse, so there is a downside to a one way emotional outburst, but hopefully it wouldn’t end in someone being seriously injured. Unless they decided to kick the heavy metal thing, which I would assume is a self-correcting problem.
So there it is, they may not be great in number, but I think they are important things to think about when it comes to Killbots in our lives. The general thought is that taking human emotion out of some things is a step too far and will lead to a lessening of the value of human life. This can be true in some circumstances, and is something to watch out for, but there is also something to be said for removing some very negative human emotions from the finger pulling the trigger. This isn’t to say I think we should replace all police and soldiers and Disney World employees with armed robots, I just think this is something we will eventually have to deal with, and we really should look at some of the pros as well as the cons when we make decisions on what is the right course of action.
Or maybe I just like being contradictory and getting people pissed off at me. At least then I would know I have more than just spam bots reading this.