As many of our readers know, I have long been fascinated by robotics, and have a particular interest in battlefield robotics and related questions of law. I felt I was late to the cyberwarfare field – and don’t know enough about it – and so have left it for others. But robotics ... well! Robotics and the law, well, well! However, one of the important features about Predator drones and UAVs as the US has developed them is that they involve important overlaps between robotics and cyber fields, because the UAV has to be controlled somehow from halfway around the world. If the classic conceptual parts of a robot are
- gross locomotion and its ability to move and act in the physical world;
- the brain and computing and processing power; and
- sensors to bring data streams into the computational resources, so as to figure out how to move and what gross physical world actions to take ...
then, in the case of how the US uses UAVs, we need to add a fourth, the cyber component of communication and control over long distances. At that point, questions of cyberattack on the robotic system become live.
This brings me to a movie I just watched last night on Netflix, Surrogates – from the comic book series of the same name to the Bruce Willis movie. It manages to combine robotics with cyber. Not bad – I thought the critics were overly tough, frankly, but then I have both low standards and low taste in movies. I liked it. I think it is a movie that Jack Goldsmith and anyone else working on cyber and robotics issues should see (I will assume that Glenn Reynolds has already watched it ... twice). With popcorn.
(Robots as caregivers have suddenly been surging to the front pages of the newspapers – the Wall Street Journal, followed by the New York Times. I’ll say more about the implications of that later.)