The Future of 'Robocop' Is Already Here


The reality of a "Robocop" U.S. military isn’t science-fiction any more. So says the director of the ’80s cult classic reboot.

“We already have the drones, we’re going to have robots soon,” José Padilha told in a conversation about the automation of violence in combat.

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“It’s going to happen, which means that every single country will have to have legislation and decide whether they’re going to use robots for war or not, which means that they’re going to have negotiations at the U.N., and they’ll decide what will be accepted and what won’t be accepted and so forth.

“This is a real issue. It’s bigger than people hunting animals remotely, and it’s bigger than using drones.”

Gen. Robert Cone, head of the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, acknowledged recently that robotic warfare is coming, explaining that the Army is working toward becoming “a smaller, more lethal, deployable and agile force” by replacing soldiers with robots and unmanned platforms.

“I’ve got clear guidance to think about what if you could robotically perform some of the tasks in terms of maneuverability, in terms of the future of the force,” Cone said last month at the Army Aviation Symposium in Arlington, Va. “There are functions in the brigade that we could automate -- robots or manned/unmanned teaming -- and lower the number of people that are involved, given the fact that people are our major cost.”

Paul Verhoeven directed the original “Robocop” in 1987. As in Padilha’s reboot, the movie portrayed a fallen cop in the future who is transformed into a man-machine hybrid, programmed to rid a violent, terrorized Detroit of crime.

“The connection between machines and the automation of violence and fascism is pretty clear -- and Verhoeven saw that,” Padilha said. “He created a character who embodied that. So, Robocop is a man who is fighting against the directives of the machine.”

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Padilha cited a recent report in the U.K.’s Telegraph in which Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, warned about the ethical concerns of automated warfare.

“There’s a danger that something that feels easy to do and without risk to yourself, almost antiseptic to the person shooting,” said McChrystal told the BBC’s “Today” show. “And so if it lowers the threshold for taking operations because it feels easy, there’s danger in that.”

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