Monday, August 29, 2016

Bombs, Coming Soon to a Place Near You

This is my biggest holy s*#t in recent months, and that's saying something given the way the news has been. I can't decide if it's just a science fiction scenario or something I really need to worry about. These words are from Stuart Russell, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of California at Berkeley:

A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter, can carry a one- or two-gram shaped charge. You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China. You can program the code to say: “Here are thousands of photographs of the kinds of things I want to target.” A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel, so presumably you can also punch a hole in someone’s head. You can fit about three million of these in a semi-tractor-trailer. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don’t have to be very effective, only 5 or 10% of them have to find the target.

There will be manufacturers producing millions of these weapons that people will be able to buy just like you can buy guns now, except millions of guns don’t matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys to write the program and launch them. So you can just imagine that in many parts of the world humans will be hunted. They will be cowering underground in shelters and devising techniques so that they don’t get detected. This is the ever-present cloud of lethal autonomous weapons.

They could be here in two to three years.

Like I said, this may just be a science fiction scenario, but I think it would be a good idea for Congress (and the U.N., if it would do any good) to outlaw these now. We have state lawmakers who keep introducing legislation banning sharia law, which isn't anything anyone would try to enact in the U.S., so maybe they can instead spend a little energy preventing this horror, which is much more likely to happen.


Gina said...

Don't hold your breath! We could use a re-instated ban on assault weapons as well as automatic and semi-automatic weapons.

Actually, the description reminded me of a scene in the TV series "Dark Angel" that aired back in 1999-2001 I think. The villains had developed a drone weapon that they programmed with the target's photograph. The drone was armed with machine-gun like "arms" that fired when it locked onto the target. However, the target had to look exactly like the photo or the drone would ignore him or her. So the target in this scene put on different eye glasses and mussed up his hair. The drone ignored him.

Kathy Whitehorn said...

Such tiny drones are for flying indoors. They can be flown outdoors but only if there is no breeze, otherwise they are swamped and crash. Not to mention that the antenna and receiver on such a tiny thing are also very small with extremely limited range - on the order of the length of a small house at maximum. (And I am being generous here.) Plus GPS isn't always reliable in location fixing. And to start a larger drone it has to be stationary to initialize parameters and such. This is an absurd scenario designed to frighten people. I would spend my time worrying about the much greater chances of being assaulted on city streets and/or in buildings by men, now and in the future, and how to avoid that possibility, than on some scenario that is not physically feasible.

Daughter Number Three said...

Thanks, Kathy. I sure hope all of that interferes with the scenario. How likely is it that solving those problems is part of the Berkeley professor's "two or three years away" timeline?

But yes, it is a bit like fearing plane accidents when car "accidents" kill 35,000 people a year in the U.S.