There have been a million movies set in some sort of dystopian or post-apocalyptic future where killer robots are either a serious threat, or have taken over the world already. From humanoid “Terminator” robots to one of the latest “Black Mirror” episodes, “Metalhead,” these robotic organisms seem to have perfected the killing of human beings. They provide precision, lethality, and are close to invincible, cutting through flesh the way a machine at a factory builds something on the assembly line — cold, without error, and without conscience. From a storyteller’s perspective, it taps in to the innate fear we all have of feeling like the animal in the slaughterhouse, whose life is suddenly and gruesomely whisked away by an entity that could care less.
We see other movies and books that play off those fears and bring them closer to home. They point out the existence of unmanned drones, and the havoc they can wreak upon a population if the pilot (and his entire chain of command) so choose. The argument has been made that piloting a drone remotely lessens the “reality” of combat, thereby turning the killing of other human beings into an effortless video game — but any cursory search will bring you to a list of studies and articles that show how psychological trauma affects drone pilots just as much as shooters on the ground.
But the technology is there — couple our current drone programs with facial and gait recognition software, add a bit of artificial intelligence, and you might just have a versatile, unstoppable killing machine Right?
Not so much.