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3.2 Military Projects

1. Frankenstein Rising?

The possible military uses for machine intelligence are virtually limitless. I have included two examples here that I thought were interesting. The first is obvious, the second you might not have ever considered. There are undoubtedly numerous people out there who will be scared witless at the very thought of giving killing and defensive machines intelligence of any kind. The old Frankenstein complex rears its ugly head, and everyone worries that the they will turn on us and wipe us out. Bull!! We do not even currently have machines with the intelligence of an ant yet. We are nowhere near producing one with the smarts of a human. Are you afraid that the ants in the nest in your yard are plotting to overthrow the world and kill us all?? No. Then there is no reason to fear machines like these. These types of systems will only be given enough intelligence to do the jobs at hand. There is no reason to try and make them self-aware, and no reason to believe they would be able to attain that level on their own. One day we will probably have machines that match or exceed the intelligence, adaptability, and sentience of humans. But these machines will not be our slaves, they will be our partners and allies. There is no reason to have intelligent machines doing boring and dangerous scutt work when simple insect like machines are more than capable of performing those tasks. So do I personally fear that the machines will run amok and wipe us all out any time soon? No. And I suggest you not lose any sleep over it either. So lets move on and look at a couple of ways in which machines can help keep this country, and its service men and women, safe.

2. Reconnaissance

Anyone who paid even glancing attention to the latest war in Afghanistan has to be familiar with the Predator and Global Hawk unmanned air vehicles (UAV). These new machines have proven to be invaluable to the US military. It has allowed our forces to have real time reconnaissance information available over very wide areas transmitted to anywhere in the world. Taliban forces were tracked and destroyed using these systems. In fact, one of the top Al Queada lieutenants was believed to have been killed in a hellfire missle attack launched from a predator. However, these types of systems can be vastly improved by using machine intelligence. The current systems use operators who control all operations of the craft remotely via a satellite link. So each machine in operation needs at least one remote pilot and usually one operator to control the video imaging. The majority of the time there is not much in the way of targets to look for. Watching hour after hour of video as your spy plane flies over mountains looking for signs of movement has to get extremely boring and tedious. And that is undoubtedly what the majority of the time on a predator is like. This ties up valuable personnel who could be doing other more important things. And that type of boring operation can lead to fatigue which could cause the operators to miss something important. Another, much larger, problem with the current system is the bandwidth. The pentagon is currently in a crunch for satellite bandwidth. There is simply not enough of it to meet their needs. They had bet that by this time there would be a huge satellite bandwidth available for them to tap into, but the availability of cheap fiber optic bandwidth meant that companies did not launch anywhere near the satellites that were originally forecast. And now the pentagon does not have the bandwidth it needs. They would undoubtedly love to saturate Afghanistan and Pakistan with recon drones. But they can not. Not because of limits in the hardware or personnel, but because they only have enough bandwidth to keep a few predators "on-line" at any one time. How can MI help solve these problems? It can do so by creating drones that are semi-autonomous. If the drones could fly themselves, and look for suspicious movements and military hardware all by itself then it would no longer need the remote operators every moment of attention. When it sees something that it thinks the operators should see then it signals back to them. The operators then spend their time looking at what has been found and making decisions on that information. It also solves the bandwidth problem because the drones only need to be in communication with the operators when it finds something or is receiving instructions. The military is also working on unmanned ground vehicles as well, and these same principles would be usable for them also.

3. Border Patrol

Currently thousands of ships dock in American ports everyday and it is simply impossible for every single one of them to be searched. It would mean training thousounds an thousands of customs agents and slowing down the rate of commerce into and out of the country. This would be incredibly expensive. So the coast guard can only search boats that they feel are suspect. But this leaves us wide open for al qeuada or other terrorists to smuggle things illegally into our country to use against us. Also, the borders themselves are porous to the point of being completely open. Someone wanting to enter the US from Canada simply needs to get a boat and ride across a lake, or to enter from Mexico they simply need to walk along an almost non-existent border. Again, defending these borders and preventing any infractions would require the training of large numbers of agents and massive sums of money. How can these types of systems help with problems such as these?

Imagine if our shorelines had thousands of small blimps patrolling them. Each of these blimps could communicate with each other and could watch for ships that are entering or leaving a specific zone of our shores. Whenever they enter this zone a small helicoptor like aircraft would detach from the blimp and fly to the ship. Once there it would land and release a group of 10 or so spider robots. Each of these robots would have sensors for things like explosives, radiation, and chemical and biological weapons. They would then split up and search the entire ship from bow to stern looking for anything illegal, just like ants look for food. If they find anything they would send out a signal to the port authorities and guard the evidence until the coast guard could arrive to investigate. Also, each of these robots would have systems to read retinal scans and fingerprints. They would seek out every person on board the ship by their body heat and a voice would prompt the person to use the retinal scanner and finger print scanners, and to provide their passports. All new passports would include smart chips that the robots could communicate with to compare the values read in with those stored in the passport. Those values would also be forwarded to a central computer for comparison with all known terrorists and criminals. Anyone who does not have a passport, or who attempts to hide from the robots will trigger an alert and the coast guard will investigate that ship. Once the search of the ship is complete and the crew all checked out the robots will return to their carry craft and it will take off and either go back to its dock on the sentinel blimp, or go on to search another ship.

In addition to sentinel ships to patrol our shorelines we could produce thousands of robots that would be positioned to watch our borders. Anyone attempting to enter the border at an unauthorized spot would be detected and then followed by the robot. It would also send up a signal to the border patrol who would have fast reactionary forces ready and waiting. Once a signal comes in of a border infraction they will swoop in using the location of the following robot and arrest the person who has illegally entered the country.

In each case here the robotic systems would operate completely independently. They would be the ones doing a lot of the searching and verifying, and would only signal for human intervention when something out of the ordinary or illegal was found. This would allow us to have near total inspection of everthing entering and leaving the country without having to have massive increases in the number of human border guards. The robots would do a lot of the scut work, and the humans would take care of the important things that require a higher degree of intelligence and reasoning.

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