Speculative Design Project - Early Thoughts / Research / Direction


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There were alot of debates about the not-so-distant tomorrow filled with autonomous robot warriors. We may think that these autonomous weapon systems are only in science fiction movies and we will never going to see these things in our real life soon. But if you think again, we are not that far with the inventions such as military robots, unmanned vehicle and etc. Some of the robots are just prototypes. Others, like sentry robots installed by South Korea and Israel, have the ability to kill autonomously but don't. As the technology gets more advanced, some officials are worried that stories about "Terminator" style robots might slow the adoption of machines that could save the lives of their soldiers. It's not just governments that are interested in the technology that's developed in the pursuit of warrior robots. In December 2013, Google bought Boston Dynamics, a company famous for building an array of frighteningly realistic robots for the research arm of the Department of Defense.

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SGR-A1 robot

The Demilitarized Zone along South Korea's border is lined with mechanized sentinels. Each stationery robot looks kind of like a menacing security camera, but with the ability to lock its built-in machine gun onto a human target and shoot to kill. The SGR-A1 robots, developed jointly by Samsung Techwin and Korea University, can automatically detect North Korean soldiers walking over the border and could technically fire without the help of a human. That is not how they work in practice. Instead, once the SGR-A1 detects something, it alerts an operator who can then decide to pull the trigger. The question is, why the middleman? Peter Asaro, the co-founder of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, told NBC News “They got a lot of bad press about having autonomous killer robots on their border”. The SGR-A1 is not even that advanced by today's standards, Asaro said, comparing its sensors to the ones used by Microsoft's Kinect. South Korean military hardware manufacturer DoDAMM has developed its Super aEgis 2, an automated gun turret that can detect and lock onto human targets from kilometers away, day or night and in any weather conditions, and deliver some heavy firepower.

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DoDAMM's Super aEgis 2: South Korea's autonomous robot gun turret

Other, more advanced robots are being tested right now. The U.S. Navy has successfully launched Northrop Grumman’s X-47B, a stealth drone the size of a fighter jet, from its aircraft carriers. In the U.K., Taranis, a top-secret unmanned aircraft named after the Celtic god of thunder, can travel at supersonic speeds and could be used by the British military to carry out pre-programmed attacks. (BAE Systems said the aircraft is meant to be used under the "control of a human operator").

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Northrop Grumman’s X-47B

Taranis first flight (video)

The Harpy, described by Israel Aerospace Industries as a “fire and forget” weapon, is essentially a powerful missile with a brain, programmed to cruise until it detects emissions from a hostile radar system. The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle and it carries cameras and other sensors but has been modified and upgraded to carry and fire two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles or other munitions.

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The Harpy

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MQ-1 Predator

With the Biohacking movement, we can now see people install do-it-yourself body enhancements such as magnetic implants, microchips, and we also have brain-computer interface (BCI) program that turns thought into action. In 2012, DARPA was reported to be developing an externally powered XOS exoskeleton design for greatly increased soldiers’ strength and endurance. With these new inventions, we are not far ahead. There will be new experience of war and there will be new type of warrior, which will fight the war in a cubicle. Machines that can kill without human guidance are already here. In fact, they are already being tested by militaries across the world. Current international law regulates all of these machines like they would any deadly weapon. It's only recently, however, that anybody had to worry about robots killing without a person making the order.

P.W. Singer: Military robots and the future of war (video)

Daniel Suarez: The kill decision shouldn't belong to a robot (video)

If you think about it, all of these technologies are using computers and also connected to networks such as Wifi, GPS, etc. We’ve already gotten some isolated previews of what’s to come. In 2007, Syria’s air defense system was disabled by an Israeli military cyber attack long enough to allow warplanes to strike a partially completed nuclear reactor. The specific details of the incident are still unclear, but there is little doubt that Syrian radar operators had their scopes disabled by some type of electronic attack.

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Thanks to modern microchip technology, old-fashioned electromagnetic jammers now have the capability to spoof radar receivers with digitally recorded copies of their own transmissions. They can also insert viruses into a network from a standoff distance, providing a new means of gaining access for cyber attacks. The proliferation of anti-satellite weapons, just a few of which can degrade or destroy space-based communications and navigation networks, also has the Pentagon worried. China’s successful 2007 test of a kinetic kill vehicle provided a wake-up call to the world that relatively simple rocket technology can be modified to create a satellite killer for which there is currently no effective countermeasure.

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American Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel

On 4 December 2011, an American Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was captured by Iranian forces near the city of Kashmar in north-eastern Iran. The Iranian government announced that the UAV was brought down by its cyberwarfare unit which commandeered the aircraft and safely landed it, after initial reports from Western news sources inaccurately claimed that it had been "shot down". The US stealth drone was captured by spoofing its GPS coordinates, a hack that tricked the bird into landing in Iranian territory instead of where it was programmed to touch down.

The impact of hacking, disrupting, degrading or destroying the satellite constellations used by a modern military would be enormous. So many capabilities are critically reliant on these networks, from phone calls to vehicular navigation, that many militaries would have difficulty functioning at a basic peacetime level without them. This is why I think that hacking will be the tool to counter the autonomous weapon systems in the future.

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The word hacker is not strictly computer-related. It means a person who has deep knowledge of a particular system and has used his creativity and knowledge to contribute to it. I personally rate Alessandro Volt, who invented the first electrical battery as one of the best hackers. The term hackers is extensively used in media these days to suggest a person who gains unauthorized access to a system for malicious purposes. Hackers themselves call these people 'crackers'. Hackers are classified into White Hat, Grey Hat, Black Hat etc to suggest the kind of activity of that Hacker.

  • Black hat hackers form the stereotypical, illegal hacking groups often portrayed in popular culture, and are "the epitome of all that the public fears in a computer criminal".Black hat hackers break into secure networks to destroy, modify, or steal data; or to make the network unusable for those who are authorized to use the network.

  • A white hat hacker breaks security for non-malicious reasons, perhaps to test their own security system or while working for a security company which makes security software. The term "white hat" in Internet slang refers to an ethical hacker. This classification also includes individuals who perform penetration tests and vulnerability assessments within a contractual agreement.

  • A grey hat hackers are the combination of a black hat and a white hat hacker. A grey hat hacker may surf the Internet and hack into a computer system for the sole purpose of notifying the administrator that their system has a security defect, for example. They may then offer to correct the defect for a fee.

How Hackers Changed The World: We Are Legion (video)

Anonymous Life Behind Computers Hacking (video)

Yes, nowadays there are alot of countries who have their own cyber army to fight against cyber attacks. But the point that I want to make here is that there are hackers all over the world and alot of them are rebels against the idea of war. Imagine, in the future if all of these hackers from different parts of the world get together, it is going to be hard for a goverment or a nation to fight them. So, this is the subject/idea that I want to explore.

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