Monday, December 5, 2022

Chinese PLA Deploys Machine Gun Wielding Robots Near Indian Border; Will Robotic Warriors Change The Battles Of Future?

Among credits (several in realpolitik) the Chinese deserve, is self-actualization of both aspiration and achievement. Never mind reliability or efficacy. In recent days the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed machine gun carrying robots to the functioning border with India.

Its conscripted troops dithered on the Line of Actual Control (LAC); its lethal robotics will not. The Sharp Claws and The Mule 200s are operable wirelessly.

Of The Mule 200s, 120 have been stationed for supplies to the 38 combatant Sharp Claw. Beyond topicality and its implications, there’s nothing unique about this. Major militaries are harnessing robotics.

Buttressing AI and Cyberspace

The most obvious aspect is the ‘go on endlessly’ without rest, replenishment, or human casualty aspect. Self-evident, minor issues of re-charging, re-fuelling notwithstanding. Wuhan Virus was a threshold crossed and mainstreamed in world discourse.

As its novelty wears off and the world resigns to smokescreens of denial and shift, non-conventional war-craft will gain wider currency. Not in the mainstream yet, but it will nibble fast at the fringes. Already is.

The vanguard is robotic warfare buttressed by AI and cyberspace. Robot soldiers: agnostic to biological, chemical, radioactive environments. In the air, they can flip and flick high ‘G turns’ which would render a human pilot useless.

US military robot
File Image: A US military robot. (USAF photo)

Under potential command, unmanned systems fly faster, turn harder. Robotic sailors have proven mettle in sea-state six which sees the roughest possible seas with waves at 20 + feet. And then, the whole aspect of digital speed and quicker learning curves with scrambled intelligence.

All of this is immensely scalable, can be improvised rapidly, is immune to honey traps or subversion. Technology has made reasonably affordable robots useful, deployable, expendable. From armies and battle-cries to suicide bombers, the robotic soldier is infallible.

An argument, which I would like to believe and hold dear, but cannot, is that human beings are special. Robotics and AI are eager to disprove this. Howsoever, remarkable you and I may be, howsoever distinct, we are nothing but a bunch of arranged atoms.

We and our brains are physical entities, obeying physical laws. For all, that’s remarkable about us and for all that we’d like to believe, from creation’s point of view, we are nothing special.

AI Can Learn From Experience

Much of our decisions are not led by explicit or rigorous reasoning. Many of our decisions do not pass muster on articulate reasoning. AI can learn from experience and make effective reasoning.

Perhaps beyond our time, there will be machines with a human-level theory of mind. And there will be soldier machines. The Robotic Soldier heralds this fantastic future throw. The Chinese offensives with quibbling robotic soldiers will be a sardonic example of robotic war genesis.

From a human view, there are seven basic plots for all stories in existence. I see the rise of robots spawned and led by AI as the plot of slaying the beast. In the rise of robotic marches, the beast has been an abstract mathematical theory of computational complexity. It posed the terribly hard-to-solve problems of AI.

The plot of the quest would also work since it has been akin to medieval knights searching for the Holy Grail. Well, here it is. Faster than we thought. Growing bigger than we imagined. The PLA’s tinkers on the Line of Actual Control are mere pegs and lead-ins to a changing military ecosystem.

RCV
File Image: US Army completed the first Robotic Combat Vehicle trial in August 2020. (via Defence Blog)

In Prague during the 1600s the head rabbi created the Golem – a magical being intended to protect the city’s Jewish population from anti-Semitic attacks. From Alan Turing’s musing in the 1950s. Can machines think? To the emerging answer of “they can” and with increasing complexity, the Robotic Warrior is on the horizon. It doesn’t care for any Golem.

War has evolved much faster than we thought and its applications have evolved faster. The smart, gallant, valiant flesh and blood soldier will yield flesh to smart material and smarter non-human soldiers who don’t care for medals, badges, or mentions in dispatches.

Or for that matter the honor codes of soldiers. Without quarters, asked or given, the Robotic Soldier will epitomize the dehumanization of humanity and the ascendance of cold hard insensate result machines. Dystopia as battlefield reality.

OPED By Amit Chaudhery

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