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Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime...
But sometimes, you just gotta give the guy the friggin' fish.

Teetering on the brink of the unknowable
[Posted by Adam Forrest on Monday, 07/11/16 12:37 pm] [Full Blog] [Tweet This]

In the early hours of Friday morning, July 8, police killed the suspect in the shootings of five Dallas police officers using a bomb disposal robot, by causing the robot to explode nearby the suspect by remote control. This is believed to be the first use of such a device for this purpose on U.S. soil.

The device was (it perished along with the scumbag suspect) probably a MARCbot IV, which stands for Multi-function Agile Remote-Controlled Robot, or a unit very much like it. These were originally made for use by the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The MARCbot IV

The MARCbot was designed for situations like the inspection of suspicious objects without having to wait for a bomb disposal team, or putting one in danger.

MARCbot looking for a bomb in car

In the US, these robots are now used by local police departments for its originally intended purpose, and also, equipped with 2-way communications, for armed-suspect negotiations.

To me, this story of using the bomb disposal robot against the shooter in Dallas is very scary, because although the action was apparently warranted in this circumstance, this kind of thing, robots being used to kill people, is exactly the dark future foretold by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in his robot stories, especially his novel The Caves of Steel.

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The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

Originally published in 1954, and still in print, The Caves of Steel takes place on a future Earth where humans have gone off to colonize other planets, and later come back as beings that are thought of by the remaining earthlings as superior. While still shunned and feared on Earth, humanoid robots are common on the "Spacer" worlds.

The book is about an Earth detective, "Lije" Baley, who is reluctantly teamed with a Spacer, Daneel Olivaw, to solve a murder. Daneel's full name turns out to be R. Daneel Olivaw, the "R" standing for robot. An important aspect of the story is what is now called "Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics" (which they just call "the Three Laws" in the story). They are:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
In the course of the story (this isn't a spoiler, you've had since 1954 to read the book!) Baley figures out that his own boss, Chief of Police Enderby, had gotten around the Three Laws in a very ingenious way and used a Spacer robot to kill a Spacer.

The Three Laws and the breaking thereof is a recurring theme of Asimov's work and much of the science fiction which followed him (including, especially, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey), stories of robots taking over the world or otherwise causing dangerous havoc, because of their mis-use or mis-treatment by humans.

And now, we have the use of a robot in Dallas to kill a bad guy.


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