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Howard S. Smith: Will Robotics Advance on the Battlefield?

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Optimal Robotics founder Howard S. Smith says the military is the most likely place for artificially intelligent machines. Developing the technology that will be needed to create fully autonomous robots is so expensive that the military is best source of funding, he says. "Regardless of the cost, robots will be bought and they will be used," Smith says. "If you have a machine that will kill other people there is an unbelievable market for it." Many of the robots in use by the military today, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, already have some autonomy because the controller could be far away from the machine. Smith believes that people would be more willing to go to war with robotic warriors, and that Western countries would rather lose $1 billion worth of robotics than several hundred casualties. Smith notes that $125 billion is being allocated by the U.S. Defense Department over the next 10 years to develop robotic troops, with the goal of having one-third of all troops be robots within 10 years. As robots continue to evolve, Smith says military robots will become more autonomous, and notes there currently are no international standards for the use of robots in wars. He says the non-military robotics sector depends more on the market, and that the Japanese model of developing robots to serve as assistants in nursing tasks could become prevalent.

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