Armed Drone Test in Turkey

Turkey’s defense industry is moving forward to develop its own weaponized drone. It is based on the tactical UAV Bayraktar, which recently underwent its first armed test flight. Currently, there seem to be no definitive plans for procurement. The military is clearly interested, though.

As was reported from India, too, a few days ago, military and industry are pushing strongly into the direction of arming robots. It is a dangerous development that will become increasingly difficult to stop. But it is still possible.

Just as a reminder: Once robots are armed, it will be nearly impossible to prevent them from using their weapons autonomously, sooner or later. It is much easier not to give them weapons in the first place.

Ban on Killer Robots: Current State of Affairs

Recently, I asked the German government which promised to support an international ban on autonomous weapon systems how this initiative is developing. They referred to ongoing multilateral discussions at the Geneva UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) where an informal working group prepared a Report on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS), which I recommend for your attention.

The window of opportunity is closing, though. There is not much time left for an international agreement to stop killer robots. As was mentioned in the now famous Open Letter Against Autonomous Weapons from July 2015, they are only years away, not decades. This has been confirmed recently by a high ranking military official from Israel.

I elaborate a bit more on the topic in this article (in German).

New Journal Issue on Drones

The current issue of Behemoth – A Journal on Civilization deals with the topic of „Game Changer? On the Epistemology, Ontology, and Politics of Drones“. The open access issue is edited by Susanne Krassmann (Hamburg) and Jutta Weber (Paderborn) and contains essays in English and German language that discuss, for instance, whether we have entered a post-heroic era or how we perceive drones visually. Looks interesting.

India Prepares to Develop its own Combat Drone

According to media reports India could become the fifth country in the world (after USA, Israel, China, and Pakistan) to build its own UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle). The Modi government seems close to approve the project called „Ghatak“, which has already been cleared by the defence ministry and is now being evaluated by the finance ministry.

Narendra Modi, you are moving in the wrong direction! Weaponizing robots is not going to make the world a safer place. On the contrary, it is a destabilizing force. Stop this project and give a good example to the rest of the world!

Chinese and American Institutes cooperate in Space

December 15, 2015, the US-based Planetary Science Institute reported, that it „signed a cooperation agreement with Qian Xuesen Laboratory of Space Technology (Qian Xuesen Lab) today to advance their mutual interests in facilitating the open-ended expansion of the exploration of the solar system and to use the knowledge thus gained in supporting the expansion of human activity beyond the Earth“.

The Qian Xuesen Lab is part of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, which does not mention the agreement on its website. Also, I could not find any other information there on Qian Xuesen Lab. Therefore, the actual relevance of the agreement is difficult to assess. But it is certainly a step into the right direction, fostering cooperation instead of confrontation.

Wooden Robots for a Safer Future

RobEcolo Project Logo

The French research project RobEcolo – Robots with low Environmental Impact aims for robot technology that serves the European goals of Climate Change Mitigation (CCM) by using new materials like wood for building robots. The project description explains: „In 2014, the robot world operational stock was about 1,500,000 units. A recent study shows that at least 60 million kWh of energy is consumed per year to operate the robots while at least 1,500,000 T of raw materials (whose stock on Earth is limited and whose extraction / processing is polluting) have been used to build them. For the manufacturing of the robot worldwide stock, the equivalent of 11,000,000 T of CO2 has been released in the atmosphere. So, the use of current robots goes against CCM.“

The project started Oct 1, 2015 with a runtime of three years. The homepage shows a few examples like the Stanford robotic arm made from lasercut plywood.


Space for Profit?

In the current issue of the journal Space Policy, Fabio Tronchetti (Harbin Institute of Technology, China) presents a legal analysis of the „Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act“ that has recently been endorsed by the US Senate. This Act allows private companies to mine and utilize asteroid resources for commercial purposes and has already been criticized.

Tronchetti lists several aspects of the Act that contradict international law and warns: „It is unrealistic to imagine that other States, especially those actively engaged in the exploration of the Moon, such as China, would passively accept such development. Instead, it is more realistic to foresee that these States will react not only by demanding clarification to the United States in appropriate diplomatic fora but also by enacting national legislation similar to the Space Exploration and Utilization. The presence of a multitude of national legislation and approaches regulating extraterrestrial mining would likely enhance the risk of disagreements and tensions among those engaged in this kind of activity.“

So it seems that by pushing ahead with this Act the USA once again increase international conflict instead of settling differences. Tronchetti concludes: „The utilization of celestial bodies resources holds potentially significant economic and technological rewards. One can only hope that such an exciting venture will be undertaken by States in a cooperative and coordinate manner without undermining the fragile equilibrium that exists in space.“

Transformative Making

Last summer makers, scientist, hackers, bricoleurs, researchers, artists, designers, and other interdisciplinary practitioners from around the globe met in Indonesia at Transformaking 2015 to discuss the transformative power of the maker movement.

Now you can continue this discussion on „Transformative and Critical Making“ on the Yasmin discussion list. „The constructive discourse at the Transformaking2015 symposia prompted us to propose this discussion on various aspects of critical making“, write Colette Tron and Nina Czegledy who are going to moderate the discussion. „The exploration of this concept and activities could be helping us to criticize the way we make things, and what we make together. All the participants of Transformaking2015 are invited as well as Yasminers on this list to contribute to the discussion.“

SETI International

Founded in July 2015 one of the missions of SETI International is to increase „awareness of the challenges facing our civilization’s longvity“. That is certainly related to the idea of this website: using robots to increase peace on Earth and contribute to a sustainable, long-lasting society. Thinking about extraterrestrial civilizations inevitably means at the same time thinking about possible futures of humanity. Robots will play an important role in these futures, especially if humanity decides to become a space-faring species.