Don’t Worry, the Biomass-Eating Robot Will be Vegetarian
Ken is going to be so jealous that I blogged about this story first! Apparently, there is concern that a new robot capable of ingesting and extracting biomass from the environment will become some kind of robot zombie feasting on (yummy?) human flesh. The companies behind the robot, however, want us to know that nothing could be further from the truth:
In response to rumors circulating the internet on sites such as FoxNews.com, FastCompany.com and CNET News about a “flesh eating” robot project, Cyclone Power Technologies Inc. (Pink Sheets:CYPW) and Robotic Technology Inc. (RTI) would like to set the record straight: This robot is strictly vegetarian.
On July 7, Cyclone announced that it had completed the first stage of development for a beta biomass engine system used to power RTI’s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR™), a Phase II SBIR project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Defense Sciences Office. RTI’s EATR is an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling.
RTI’s patent pending robotic system will be able to find, ingest and extract energy from biomass in the environment. Despite the far-reaching reports that this includes “human bodies,” the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips – small, plant-based items for which RTI’s robotic technology is designed to forage. Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI.
“We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission,” stated Harry Schoell, Cyclone’s CEO. “We are focused on demonstrating that our engines can create usable, green power from plentiful, renewable plant matter. The commercial applications alone for this earth-friendly energy solution are enormous.” (emphasis in the original)
I’m going out on a limb — a non-human one, of course — and claiming that this is the first time Article 15 has ever been mentioned in a press release about robots.
Bonus IHL info: cannibalism has been prosecuted as a war crime on a number of occasions. In 1946, for example, a US Military Commission sitting in the Marianas Islands convicted a Lt.General in the Japanese Army of “preventing an honorable burial due to the consumption of parts of the bodies of prisoners of war by the accused during a special meal in the officers’ mess.” The General was sentenced to death and executed. No word on whether he was then eaten.
Hat-Tip: Mark Weidermeier at The Faculty Lounge.