It was reported earlier this week that a military robot, the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR, aren’t they cute with their acronyms?) would have the ability to feast upon the remains of dead people. This assertion has since been retracted and corrected, since there was a bit of dismay at the thought of an army of self-sustaining mechanized warriors going from battle to battle, flaying the human populace and then sitting down to chow, complete with steel bibs and $1,000 Pentagon-designed silverware.
Robot Technology Inc., the madmen behind this piece of work, presented their vegan side of the story.
“Despite the far-reaching reports that this (the robot’s food source) includes “human bodies,” the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone (Cyclone Power Technologies Inc.) has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips — small, plant-based items for which RTI’s robotic technology is designed to forage. Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI.”
Did you read all of that? I didn’t, I zoned out thinking of just how much flesh-eating robots fit in line with the progression of military thought. To illustrate, let’s take a look at a timeline.
There might have been a few details between the events shown here, but they're not nearly as important.
As we progressively become more and more ridiculous and inhuman with our means of combat (a smart bomb is, rumor has it, still a bomb), why impede the natural evolution of our weaponry? Just as a man of the 14th century would marvel at our landing on the moon, vehicular transport or television, so should he be in awe of our flesh-eating robot servants.
“There are certain signatures from different kinds of materials that would distinguish vegetative biomass from other material,” Dr. Bob Finkelstein, president of RTI and owner of the most appropriate name ever, said.
But is anyone really going to be terrified of a giant weaponized robot that takes a break from wanton destruction to peek around its surroundings and poo-poo its dietary selection, worried about its robo-carbs? Even if Synthetic Swim Season was around the corner, if we’re building robots that aid in killing folks, they shouldn’t be limiting their food choices, let them eat what they please. So what if they gobble up a dead body every now and then, it doesn’t mean they’ll be barging into orphanages for a midnight snack (provided we don’t let them get a taste for orphans at least).
The real ethical dilemma here is RTI wimping out to liberal sensitivities and keeping our mechanized armies from being all that they can be built to be. Oh, and the continued dehumanization of warfare, leading to a society that views suffering incurred by their military actions as a distant problem, thereby creating a culture in which warfare is progressively a passive activity, as opposed to one requiring a careful weighing of the ideals a hand and the cost of defending or attacking them.
Names RIT turned down during the development stages of EATR…
FEAR (Fiendish Eater’s Autonomous Rampage)
DESTRUCTOR (Doling Evil Submission to Renegades Using Teeth or Rice-o-roni)