Love the Machine

Rosie from the JetsonsSoldiers in Iraq and Afganistan are using robots to do some of the military’s most dangerous work. The best way to remove a land mine is to step on it, but it’s hard to get people to volunteer for that duty.  That’s where robots come in. Specially designed machines go out into minefields and trigger the explosives. They lose a leg every time one goes off, but those legs can be replaced.

During a recent test of these devices in Arizona, the Army colonel in charge of the test stopped it before they were finished. The robot had only one leg left, and was still tring to trudge through the mine field and complete its mission. The colonel claimed that the test was inhumane.

The troops are increasingly befriending and bonding with their robots. Many of them have names. In some cases, soldiers bring boxes of robot pieces back to the repair facility, asking that they be fixed. They don’t want new robots. They want the old ones repaired.

In some cases, the robots have received promotions and medals for exemplary performance. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) units, who use robots to find and remove roadside bombs in Iraq, even take their robots fishing with them. They just put a fishing rod in the claw and put the robot in the sun next to the water.

According to a recent Washington Post story, the military isn’t the only place where robots are becoming commonplace. There were two million personal bots in use in 2004. That number is expected to climb to 7 million next year. If we continue to personify them, we may be facing some pretty interesting questions about their role in society.

2 thoughts on “Love the Machine

  1. Whether it happens to be man’s best friend or my personal favorite, the carriageless horse, people have long identified with their trusted helpers and companions. We shower them with affection and praise, most of us at some level regarding them as more like, than unlike ourselves.

    The thing that makes the robot/human interaction so odd is that although many of these machines are capable of some level of cognition, none are capable of feeling. (That’s probably a little ways away…) So here we are- expressing admiration and affection for something that is incapable of reciprocating either.

  2. Wow, I guess the movie I-Robot with Will Smith (
    may come true one day. I am not sure to be excited or scared. I definitely understand how one could become attached to a robot, but is this really good for our overall emotional IQ…

    I can see robots providing companionship to people with depression, anxiety, physical limitations and of course the armed forces but overall implementation into society worries me a little bit. I guess the science fiction part of me relates back to that I Robot movie and the possibility of machines taking over one day. It is like my wife tells me- “You watch to much television Todd”!!!!

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