Robot/bomber interface: welcome to the 21st century

This amazing picture shows a suicide bomber who partially blew himself up being dragged away by an Israeli bomb disposal robot yesterday. Avoiding the controversial politics behind the incident - this is the first time I’ve seen a robot and a human interacting in a combat situation. Is it actually the first time it’s happened?

The entire sequence of events:

No, I think they experimented with dropping bombs from UAVs in Afghanistan. I guess it depends on you’re meaning of combat; are you thinking hand to ‘hand’ combat, or a more general sense of the word (“To oppose in battle; fight against.”).

Some munitions are also closer to being robots than one of those bomb disposal things. Those are just beefed up RC cars with lots of bells, whistels, and chrome, but is still a puppet of the human operator. A ‘smart’ munition (laser guided bomb, cruise missile, etc), on the other hand, examines it’s environment and acts accordingly without ongoing input from the operator.

Yeah, I guess my definition of ‘robot’ is weak.

No, it’s just a word where there is no strict definition. Here’s the three entries on

  1. A mechanical device that sometimes resembles a human and is capable of performing a variety of often complex human tasks on command or by being programmed in advance.
  2. A machine or device that operates automatically or by remote control.
  3. A person who works mechanically without original thought, especially one who responds automatically to the commands of others.

Very few robots fall under 1 outside sci-fi and fantasy. The bomb thing falls under number two, but I’m in favor of a more strict definition because #2 includes a bunch of stuff that most people wouldn’t really consider a robot, including a TV, a web server, some gas fireplaces, the Clapper…

Of course, smart bombs and cruise missiles completely violate the first rule of robotics, but could be argued to not violate the 0th rule, if they are only used by those who are ‘right’ in any conflict. They aren’t, though.

I think the important benchmark is when a robot harms a human without being told to do so, either in programming or user input. That’s when I’ll be worried about robot-human combat interactions.

Sorry for hijacking your thread and giving it a bit of a sci-fi bent…

In the stand-off at Randy Weaver’s place, the FBI had a robot with a shotgun mounted on it that they parked in front of Weaver’s front door.