Briefly Noted

Things Read, Seen or Heard

Ghost’s canine bots are the scary older brother of every other dog robot you’ve ever seen, and a good reminder that we're getting increasingly efficient at finding ways to kill ourselves.

Don’t call it a dog robot. Instead, its makers refer to it as a Quadrupedal Unmanned Ground Vehicles, or ground drone if you want something that rolls a bit easier off the tongue. This particular model is called the Vision 60.

Vision 60 robots via Ghost Robotics on Twitter

Ghost’s Vision 60 robots will soon patrol Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. While the company says they don’t intend to arm these robots, other robots have been for years now:

“Robots were first utilized in ground combat during the war in Afghanistan, starting in 2002. Hermes was a 20-kilogram robot kitted out with cameras and, where needed, a grenade launcher and a 12-gauge shotgun.”

It all captures the imagination with images of a not so future dystopia floating through the head. The question isn’t whether armed robots will patrol land, sea and sky, it’s when they’ll become autonomous. The Army is working on autonomous tanks, the Navy is developing weapons capable autonomous ships, and the Air Force Skyborg program is doling out cash to develop autonomous combat drones.

Our current generation of “dumb” robots is already changing power dynamics on the battlefield.

For example, Azerbaijan just leveraged its drone force to defeat its stronger neighbor Armenia in their border war:

In a matter of months… [the conflict became] perhaps the most powerful example of how small and relatively inexpensive attack drones can change the dimensions of conflicts once dominated by ground battles and traditional air power.

It also highlighted the vulnerabilities of even sophisticated weapons systems, tanks, radars and surface-to-air missiles without specific drone defenses. And it has raised debate on whether the era of the traditional tank could be coming to an end.

The sci-fi future is very present. Iran’s media is leveraging the not so farfetched idea that one of their top scientists was killed by a machine gun controlled via satellite.

Of course, they have their reasons. Namely, putting the assassination in the realm of supernatural technology deflects citizen anger that foreign elements (read: Mossad) wander the country unimpeded.1

Still, why not? The technology the Iranians refer to exists. With the amount of money being poured into weaponizing machine learning and artificial intelligence, remote autonomous assassination systems can’t be far behind.

Somewhat related: A French military ethics committee says the country can develop “augmented soldiers”.

  • When Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in November, Iran’s media reported he was killed in an ambush. A few weeks later they changed their story to say artificial intelligence, facial recognition and a satellite controlled machine gun shot him down.

More Notes

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A technical glitch on a Chinese video streaming platform reveals a young, popular vlogger is actually a much older woman.

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An architect creates a seesaw at the US-Mexico border to show what happens on one side affects what happens on the other… Oh, and kids have fun.

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A spacecraft not much bigger than a loaf of bread is demonstrating that sailing the cosmos is a possibility.

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A letter sent fifty years ago from Charles Schulz to a ten-year-old boy shows how much hasn’t changed in American society and politics.

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A brain implant that transmits video directory to the visual cortex is allowing some formerly blind patients to see.

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As Los Angeles its green future, here’s a look at the light rail system it had over a 100 years ago.

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And now for something beautiful: the International Space Station crosses the sun.

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Welcome to the current state of deepfake videos where you could ask yourself how much more screwed could we be? And the answer would be, none, none more screwed.

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Those food shots you see on Instagram aren’t about eating what’s in the photo. Instead, they showcase the privilege of being somewhere where such food exists to begin with.

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