After three hundred yards, exterminate.

I've spent the week writhing in bed with an astonishingly painful ear infection. If you've been thinking about getting an ear infection - DON'T. They're all hype. It has however, given me time to write a grumpy rebuke to my favourite rag The Independent. I must admit, my ear felt a tiny bit better at the exact moment I hit 'send.'
"Friday's article, 'The age of the killer robot is no longer a sci-fi fantasy' (22/01/10) which forewarned of the emerging use of robots for war was so melodramatic, biased and inaccurate that I feel compelled to suggest that it may have been better written by an apathetic robot than by Mr. Johann Hari. Did he perhaps fall asleep at the keyboard while watching Transformers? (Can't blame him there.)

He supposes that a robot soldier would have to make difficult decisions, may make mistakes and in the wake of inevitable errors those responsible may dodge culpability. Sound familiar? While quick to brush off any advocacy as "techno-optism," his own assumptions show generous favour for human capability, a blind eye for history and a ludditian lack of imagination.

Mr. Hari suggests that a robot finds it "almost impossible to distinguish an apple from a tomato." In reality a robot could easily sift through a thousand fruit and sort them into type, weight and ripeness in a fraction of the time it would take a human. I suggest that Mr. Hari finds it almost impossible to distinguish his elbow from his tush.

It is wrong to presume that the role of a robot would be identical to anything familiar to us today - who can predict what a battle of the future might consist of? Please don't say James Cameron. I imagine that the reason behind developing robot technology is to perform tasks too dangerous or technically impossible for us mere mortals. And one would hope that their introduction would reduce unnecessary casualties rather than cause more. I wouldn't go so far to say that this is commendable, but these are highly sophisticated tools, that's all.

The creation of a robot will not provide new reasons for war, just a new tool to undertake them. The reasons for war - territory, religion, resources... - will remain the same. The fault lies in the willingness to deploy them, not in the machines themselves. A better headline may have been 'The age of the peaceful humans remains pure fantasy.'"

Richard Kenworthy, Hackney, London

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