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AI prof: The robot terrorists are coming! Aiee!

Noel Sharkey issues another robopocalypse warning

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Noted Brit media prof Noel Sharkey - perhaps most famous as a judge on TV's Robot Wars - has warned (again) of the coming danger to humanity posed by killer robots. But this time, rather than military deathdroids or homicidal mechanoid nurses (see below), Sharkey is flagging up the threat from killbots directed by sinister militants or guerillas.

Yes, you read that right: the ATTACK OF THE ROBOT TERRORISTS is imminent! Flee, oh flee for your lives while you still can!

According to a Reuters report, Sharkey - whose day job is Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at Sheffield Uni - will deliver his latest robopocalypse warning to a military thinktank tonight.

Pointing to the burgeoning droid armies of America and its allies, the prof reckons that enemies of freedom and democracy will soon get in on the act - perhaps triggering a fearful orgy of mechanised slaughter which could, unchecked, wipe out humanity. Or maybe see the few survivors scurrying like rats in underground tunnel networks or something.

"How long is it going to be before the terrorists get in on the act?" asks Sharkey.

"With the current prices of robot construction falling dramatically and the availability of ready-made components for the amateur market, it wouldn't require a lot of skill to make autonomous robot weapons."

Apparently the prof - who boasts chartered-engineer status along with his Equity card and sheaves of psych and biobotics credentials - reckons that a basic killbot could be built for £250. He's thinking here of your everyday GPS toy-aircraft DIY cruise missile style caper.

Previously, Sharkey has warned of "a robot arms race that will be difficult to stop... I can imagine a little girl being zapped because she points her ice cream at a robot to share".

And that's not all. On his webpage, the roboticist says:

This has become a passion for me. There is a cultural mythology about robots fed by media, goverments and scientists alike. The thinking robot is still only a fairytale. Behind the zoomorphic dream of robot companions and helpers there are some real dangers... the rise of robot elderly carers, child minders, nurses, soldiers and police... mobile robot surveillance. These are not super-intelligent robots. They are dumb automatic machines and we must decide what we want from them before we de-humanise ourselves further.

Other previous Sharkey quotes: "It would be great if all the military were robots and they could fight each other" and "Imagine the miners' strike with robots armed with water cannon". He has also, apparently, predicted the imminent arrival of vibrating eroto-droid concubines - which could presumably be subverted by terrorist hackers in hilarious Austin Powers style.

Holy crap. Little girls blown away by soulless droid childminder/soldiers for waving ice creams? £250 terrorist sat nav kamikaze deathdrones homing in remorselessly on their helpless targets laden with CARGOES OF DEATH? Sensible decision-making by human troops replaced by a frenzied automatic bloodbath?

Or maybe - just maybe - a case of inky hacks and media profs in a robot-headline feedback loop?

You decide. ®

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