The US military has an unshakeable reputation for integrity and transparency, so news that the Office of Naval Research is building its own robot army doesn’t make us at all concerned about the future of civilisation as we know it.
Built in a cooperative effort by oblivious eggheads at Virginia Tech, UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania, the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robots (or SAFFiRs) are ostensibly designed to seek and destroy fires aboard ships, thereby negating human limitations such as flammability and the need for oxygen. But, as the SAFFiRs move toward the testing phase this summer, two aspects of these robots in particular are giving us pause for paranoid thought: they’re humanoid and they can throw grenades.
We’re told that these ‘grenades’ are actually designed to spread suppressing materials in fire-engulfed areas, but there’s nothing stopping a robot with arms picking up, say, an M67 frag grenade and winging it at its human (former) master. Think of it as a lifelike machine capable of doing anything a human can do but devoid of morals, ethics or compassion – in other words, an indestructible politician. Terrified yet?
But perhaps our fears are unfounded, and we at Epicentre are just jealous that the US Navy beat us to it, as we’ve been developing our own army of humanoid robots designed to take automated testing services to the next level of awesome. We haven’t quite figured out how to get enough power from the potato to run the neural net yet, so in the meantime we’ll be offering our normal human-based automated testing services with our usual level of accuracy and commitment.