The article conflated drones and robots, probably confusing lots of readers. I sent in this response:
Drones are not robots--
“May the robot shoot back at the human?,” a column in Sunday’s paper, is misleading, even preposterous.
People are going to think that our military has developed truly autonomous fighting machines, or robots. Not at all. That is still a distant future.
Our military is deploying thousands of remote-controlled drones. These machines may cost millions of dollars but conceptually they are like radio-controlled toys. These drones are flown by human operators seated in remote cockpits.
This is not to say that our scientists couldn’t jury-rig a very lethal robot. But they wouldn’t dare. Invariably, the robot will make crazy decisions, and probably cause more trouble than it is worth.
People need to understand that human beings are extremely complex; and so-called robots are still far behind. The things that are easy for us (crossing the street, sorting laundry, deciding what to do today) are hugely difficult for a robot. Why would a robot want to do any one thing more than any other thing? It wouldn’t, not unless you tell it to. Then it’s no longer a robot.
Bruce Deitrick Price
Virginia Beach, Virginia
It's a big mystery to me why the Virginian-Pilot keeps publishing oblivious columns and articles about robots. (There have been several.) Then I post what seems like a fairly simple explanation of the confusions. The Pilot doesn't publish it. That's also a big mystery. Is it that no one will admit they don't know robotics? They can't possibly sit around a table and say, let's not tell our readers anything about robots. As I say, a big mystery.
But for everyone else, here's the simplest way to get up to speed on robots. Take a look at "17: Understanding Robots." I'm very proud of this piece, precisely because I'm not an engineer. I approach the problem as a futurist. You see certain tendencies and you extrapolate forward and backward.