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Pentagon Drafts Kids To Build Drones and Robots 173

Posted by samzenpus
from the war-kids dept.
MrSeb writes "In a world where warfare is fast becoming fielded by remote controlled and autonomous robots, innovation is the key to victory. The most technologically advanced superpower can see more, plan better, and attack from further away than its inferior adversaries. What better way to revolutionize the drone and robotics industry than use the brilliant minds of our children? That's what DARPA and the Defense Department's research and development arm thinks, anyway. The Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach Initiative, part of the Adaptive Vehicle Make project, is slated to reach a thousand schools in and out of the country, roping in the brightest minds to develop robotics and advance technology in new and interesting ways. Funded by the Department of Defense, the program comes with a steep cost: The DoD wants unlimited rights to everything the students build. It sounds almost like something Orson Scott Card would dream up."
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Pentagon Drafts Kids To Build Drones and Robots

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  • "In a world where warfare is fast becoming fielded by remote controlled and autonomous robots..."

    You've been watching way too many sci fi movies to make that statement.

    Besides that US, I don't think any other country has the kind of robotic arsenal you're dreaming of.

    • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Friday January 27, 2012 @09:14AM (#38838377) Homepage

      See: Remote Control War [imdb.com], available on Netflix watch it now. It may not be the robotic arsenal _you_ are dreaming of, it's a different one, and probably bigger and more capable than you imagine.

    • by errandum (2014454)

      http://theaviationist.com/2012/01/20/neuron-roll-out/ [theaviationist.com] the europeans disagree with you

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2012 @09:45AM (#38838657)

      By some measures, the U.S. government is the most violent government that has ever existed. The U.S. government has 6 times the percentage of citizens in prison as European countries. The U.S. government has invaded or bombed or interfered destructively with 27 countries since the end of the 2nd world war. The U.S. government killed more people in Iraq than Saddam Hussein. The U.S. government believes it can torture or kill anyone at any time. The U.S. government can require executives of U.S. companies to take actions without disclosing what was done.

      In comparison, taking intellectual property while giving little in return is a smaller crime, but it is a crime.

      In what other country would Newt Gingrich or George W. Bush be considered a serious candidate for public office? They are or were candidates only because they deliver corruption.

      All of that destructiveness will soon become much worse. The U.S. government is trying to arrange a war with Iran. That will benefit people like the Bush family who have investments in companies that profit from war. It will benefit Israelis who want U.S. taxpayers to pay for Israel's security. It will hurt U.S. taxpayers who will discover that their money will lose value even faster than before.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        [sarcasm font on] Yes, but you really are failing to see the benefit here. These countries are blessed with an abundance of natural resources which the military rulers are pissing away by enslaving the people and buying guns from non-Democratic based countries. By intervening we are allowing our democratically based companies to help these poor people develop their natural resources and improve their lives. We only take our half of the revenue as fair compensation for helping to develop these countries and
        • It's interesting to me that even though you had your sarcasm font on, what you typed is pretty much the line that Americans are fed by their government. And a lot of them still buy it somehow.
      • by couchslug (175151)

        "The U.S. government has 6 times the percentage of citizens in prison as European countries."

        That doesn't make the government violent.

        The US is diverse and that has both very good and very bad aspects. The only way to control crime is to lock up lots of repeat offenders and throw away the key.

        Europe has Europeans, and while immigration will gradually erode its cultures Europe isn't nearly as infested with humans from failed cultures as the US.

        Slavery ensured the US would remain a violent country for centuri

        • The only way to control crime is to lock up lots of repeat offenders and throw away the key.

          Not necessarily, if you make less things illegal, by definition, crime goes down. We could lower our crime rate incredibly simply by ending the failed drug war. Unfortunately we have allowed prisons to become a private enterprise who lobby hard to keep business booming.

          • by jamstar7 (694492)

            Not necessarily, if you make less things illegal, by definition, crime goes down. We could lower our crime rate incredibly simply by ending the failed drug war. Unfortunately we have allowed prisons to become a private enterprise who lobby hard to keep business booming.

            Of course we did. Where else is there a ready supply of dirt cheap labor inside the US? They can't unionise or go on strike, OSHA doesn't go 'inside', and the private prisons charge them room and board just like the old West Virginia coal t

        • Your nom de plume is very apropos! The fact that we have the largest prison population has NOTHING to do with population diversity! It has everything to do with an out of control legal system and a judiciary that is corrupt, capricious, arbitrary, highly political and completely out of touch! As long as the vast majority of elected "lawmakers" are attorneys we will continue to accrue new legal structures and redundant laws without the elimination of anachronism while continually pandering to the "Law

    • by Gilmoure (18428)

      So my kid's Lego Robotics club at elementary school is just a pre-enlistment test?

    • And besides the US, most countries involved in wars are either fighting the US, or supported by the US, or fighting countries supported by the US. That's why remote-controlled drones are now involved in practically every conflict.

      Autonomous robots is something else, though. I recall South Korea has some fully automatic machine gun sentries, but other than that most people understandably aren't big on the idea of letting software autonomously decide to kill - not even because of Skynet, but because most soft

  • Not at all shocking. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2012 @09:11AM (#38838359)

    The DoD wants unlimited rights to everything the students build.

    Just like Apple wants rights to the e-books made with their ebook software,

    Or how Corporations want the rights to whatever you create, on or off the clock.

    How many of you remember the old days when DARPA made a CAD package with tax dollars and felt the citizens should have full access to that source code?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Just like Apple wants rights to the e-books made with their ebook software

      Apple doesn't want the rights to the ebooks made with iBook Author - all they say is any book made with their software, which they provide for free, can only be distributed ,in Apple's iBook format created by the software, by them. The author owns the content and can do whatever else they want with it, just not with Apple's software.

      While I would like Apple to release a version of iBook Author that created a standard ePub formatted file that could be used on other devices, and I would pay for such softwa

      • by dabadab (126782)

        "Apple doesn't want the rights to the ebooks made with iBook Author - all they say is any book made with their software, which they provide for free, can only be distributed ,in Apple's iBook format created by the software, by them."

        Sorry, but all you do is to prove the OP's point: the copyright grants the author the right to distribute his work as he sees fits - and Apple wants this right for themselves for ebooks made with iBook Author. Q.E.D.

        • To quibble, "copyright grants the author the right to distribute his work as he sees fits" is not at all correct.

          Copyright grants the author exclusive right to determine distribution. In other words, someone cannot distribute your work in a manner you haven't approved.

          Is Apple distributing author works in a manner the authors haven't approvde of? If not, no violation.

          I went to Apple's site. There's ample opportunity to learn the details before you agree to use their software. That's where deter
        • "Apple doesn't want the rights to the ebooks made with iBook Author - all they say is any book made with their software, which they provide for free, can only be distributed ,in Apple's iBook format created by the software, by them."

          Sorry, but all you do is to prove the OP's point: the copyright grants the author the right to distribute his work as he sees fits - and Apple wants this right for themselves for ebooks made with iBook Author. Q.E.D.

          You still have the right to distribute your copyrighted work as you see fit - Apple gains no control over your copyrighted material - all you are agreeing to is a license that says if you want to create an ebook with our tools you agree to use our distribution mechanism. You have the right to decline the license and not use their tool - you are not assigning your copyright to them, nor losing any other rights granted to you by copyright. It's not even an exclusive right to distribute you are granting Apple

      • You're not an author. You're an iAuthor.

    • How many of you remember the old days when DARPA made a CAD package with tax dollars and felt the citizens should have full access to that source code?

      People wanted for the longest time for the Govt to operate as a business to find efficiencies and cost savings. Well, operating as a business means that income needs to be generated by investments. So that is what they are doing, using their income (tax) to generate more income (patent holdings).

    • by iamwahoo2 (594922)

      All things considered, the Gov offer is extremely generous and pretty much standard for any government science and technology effort. The government is paying for the effort and all "unlimited rights" means is that they want to have access to the work so that they can use the technology in their efforts and eventually have a product manufactured. They do not force you to give your information away to anyone else. You can still patent/copyright whatever you create and make money off of it in the commercial w

  • Portal 2 (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why does this bring to memory the "take your children to work day" in the game? "Here, kid, see this potato? That's boring, let's play with a grenade!"

  • Well, at least kids are not going to do drugs after school. And it'll give them common intellect-based goal, creating communities of capable people, which in turn can spur interesting startups and just maybe even the next Google. It's just so much better to invest in people, than to buy overprised pieces of outdated warfare machinery. Manhattan project also sounded pretty evil, but it turned out to be pretty good.
    • by unixisc (2429386)
      Fully agree w/ this - that's exactly my thought. This way, kids get good practical experiences that they can put on their resumes, and use later on in their line of work. It also reduces the need for conscription, and since such products are consumable items, some of which will be destroyed by enemies, it will have to be manufactured. Since it's a defense item, it's not something whose manufacture can simply be dumped on China. This could start the trend of some manufacturing coming back to the US, and
      • by Rolgar (556636)

        Instead of children, it should be young men and women who want to get trained in plane maintenance. Before you learn how to fix them, you start by building them. The Air Force could take over a final stage of assembling the drones. Send approved (for security) vendors a parts list, and buy from each what you need. Have parts delivered to an Air Force assembly location. Have young men who want a free education in assembling and repairing planes put them together, for which they get paid. Force the defense co

    • Manhattan project also sounded pretty evil, but it turned out to be pretty good.

      I'd say that really depends on your point of view.

    • by radtea (464814)

      It's just so much better to invest in people, than to buy overprised pieces of outdated warfare machinery. Manhattan project also sounded pretty evil, but it turned out to be pretty good.

      I don't really count several hundred thousand dead and the world held in a balance of terror for decades as "pretty good", although there's no certainty that or worse wouldn't have happened with Manhattan.

      But the space program sounded good and did good. If we're going to throw money away on stuff why not exploration and discovery rather than destruction and killing?

      Why this fascination with economically useless dead weight loss industries that are capable by design of doing nothing but destroying human liv

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday January 27, 2012 @09:21AM (#38838413) Journal
    Why use the brilliant minds of our children to merely build drones and robots when we could use the brilliant minds of our children to control drones and robots?

    As a bold step down our path toward becoming a computerized, transhuman dystopia, I suggest, nay, Demand, the following proposal be enacted:

    All the nation's youth shall compete in brutally demanding cyber-athletics championships. Every year, the most superb competitors will be selected for the Ceremony of Transcendence. After a celebration of their excellence, their brain-meats shall be harvested and join the honored ranks of the Bottled Warriors, fully modular brain support and interface tanks suitable for high-density containerized installation for remote control of America's drone assets, or direct incorporation into locally controlled robotic weapons platforms.

    There would be a minor downside, in that the battlefields of the future would start to sound like the hell-world of Xbox live, as LRAD units with the minds of 14 year old gamer kiddies scream "NOOBFAGGOTHACKER!" loud enough to turn a man into gooey paste; but our combination of mindblowing immaturity and stonehearted resolve would terrify our foes into submission...
  • by dokc (1562391) on Friday January 27, 2012 @09:21AM (#38838417) Journal
    I would say that every use of children for military purposes of any kind is a violation of international human rights: Military_use_of_children#International_human_rights_law [wikipedia.org]
    and especially interseting part is:
    "Under Article 8(2)(a)(xxvi) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), adopted in July 1998 and entered into force 1 July 2002; "Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities" is a war crime."
    • Yeah that's a pretty big stretch.

      • And if you read what the program is about it is for "High School Age" kids which leaves pretty much just freshman under 15.

    • by qbast (1265706)
      Well, US ratified neither Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court nor Convention on the Rights of the Child. So everything including "Ender's Game" scenario is legal.
    • I would say that every use of children for military purposes of any kind is a violation of international human rights: Military_use_of_children#International_human_rights_law [wikipedia.org]

      and especially interseting part is:

      "Under Article 8(2)(a)(xxvi) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), adopted in July 1998 and entered into force 1 July 2002; "Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities" is a war crime."

      Huge difference between designing weapons and participating actively in hostilities.

    • But this isn't participating 'actively,' any more than is paying taxes to a government that spends part of them on war.
    • This doesn't mean that it is a good idea; but I'm pretty sure that sitting around CADing up robots for DARPA would have to be stretched pretty hard to be construed as "conscription or enlistment into the national armed forces" or "participating actively in hostilities".

      If anything, it is a substantial step less direct than existing JROTC stuff, or even some of the Boy Scouts-esque programs that maintain a bit of their historical connection to WWI/II-era nationalist enthusiasm for development of the natio
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      "Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities" is a war crime."

      They are not conscripted into the armed forces so that is not valid.
      They are not enlisted into the armed services so that isn't valid.
      They are not participating actively in hostilities.
      I also didn't see any ages in the link so they may even be targeting this program more to high school so the under 15 years of age might not come into it.
      In ot

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by dokc (1562391)

        They are not conscripted into the armed forces so that is not valid. They are not enlisted into the armed services so that isn't valid. They are not participating actively in hostilities.

        All true, but it doesn't make it less scary. Children will be used to design weapons.

        A groundless inflammatory reply to a groundless inflammatory story. The new Slashdot marches on.

        Oh, sorry, I didn't know you are from Disneyland. Well, in the real world people die from real weapons. Sorry if mentioning that on slashdot hurt your feelings.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          "All true, but it doesn't make it less scary. Children will be used to design weapons."
          So what you are saying is that that the post that I replied too was in fact completely invalid and while everything I stated was in fact the truth it just doesn't matter.

          "Children will be used to design weapons."
          No they will not. This is a DARPA program. The "kids" will not be tasked with designing weapons. They will not be given projects like "Build a robot that can shoot 10 people but not hit friendlies". Get real this

          • by dokc (1562391)

            "All true, but it doesn't make it less scary. Children will be used to design weapons." So what you are saying is that that the post that I replied too was in fact completely invalid and while everything I stated was in fact the truth it just doesn't matter.

            I want to say that not everything is black and white as you are learned to believe and how you want to look at this mater.

            "Children will be used to design weapons." No they will not. This is a DARPA program. The "kids" will not be tasked with designing weapons. They will not be given projects like "Build a robot that can shoot 10 people but not hit friendlies". Get real this will be a basic science project kind of program. They will be given project like, create a robot that can travel through sand, gravel, and mud.

            How do you know that? And what "This is a DARPA program" means for you?
            The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military.

            My point is that children will be used to create weapons. Directly or indirectly it doesn't mater.

            You are the one living in fantasyland not I. You are so blinded you dismiss pure manipulation when you see it because you happen to believe in the goal.

            What is wrong in believing in th

            • by LWATCDR (28044)

              Wow you are so self confused.
              The world is not back and white, yet you clearly see it that way. Children are being used to create weapons directly or indirectly? Really?
              and this.
              "I am against war and against violence of any kind. For me is this story a red flag. It's your right to think otherwise..."

              The fact you can not see the manipulation is really sad and yet again you throw up an emotional appel. I have never said I am for or not for this program. I never said that I as for war or violence or not. I simp

              • by dokc (1562391)

                Wow you are so self confused. The world is not back and white, yet you clearly see it that way. Children are being used to create weapons directly or indirectly? Really? and this. "I am against war and against violence of any kind. For me is this story a red flag. It's your right to think otherwise..."

                The fact you can not see the manipulation is really sad and yet again you throw up an emotional appel. I have never said I am for or not for this program. I never said that I as for war or violence or not. I simply pointed out facts it is you that is dealing with fear and emotion not I nd those are the tools of the tyrant and dictator.

                Than cut the crap and say what you think.

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      As if the US gives a shit about international conventions, at least when applied to them.

    • I would say that every use of children for military purposes of any kind is a violation of international human rights

      And you're certainly welcome to that opinion, however:

      and especially interseting part is:
      "Under Article 8(2)(a)(xxvi) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), adopted in July 1998 and entered into force 1 July 2002; "Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities" is a

    • by iamwahoo2 (594922)

      I would say that every use of children for military purposes of any kind is a violation of international human rights: Military_use_of_children#International_human_rights_law [wikipedia.org]

      and especially interseting part is:

      "Under Article 8(2)(a)(xxvi) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), adopted in July 1998 and entered into force 1 July 2002; "Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces or using them to participate actively in hostilities" is a war crime."

      According to the website, they are not necessarily designing military items. It specifically identifies items like go-carts and mobile robots in the program description. However, I will agree to the extent that having the military involved in education is a slippery slope as it has the potential for abuse and really is no value added. The reason that the military is involved in this is that Congress has budgeted a specific amount of money for STEM. Congress could just as easily provide this money to other o

    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      First off, these kids won't be wearing the uniform. Second off, the US has refused to acknowledge the existance of that treaty and ruling.
  • not a new idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by snookerhog (1835110) on Friday January 27, 2012 @09:21AM (#38838427)
    somebody watched Toys [imdb.com]
  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Friday January 27, 2012 @09:26AM (#38838459)
    I wouldn't feel as bad if it was something done by the National Science Foundation (NSF) or NASA. However having the DoD do it where their emphasis is security and not science makes me worry. There is also the feeling that this will teach our children that it is okay for the government to spy on its citizens with drones and robots. At least with NSF and NASA there is the pretext that this could be done for science in a grand scale like remote sensing (drones) or in hostile environments like deep sea exploration or vulcanism (robots).
  • Gee, before we only had to worry about the mental fragility of adult engineers who "accidentally" stumble across and create the next atom bomb or nerve agent, and the psychological repercussions of creating a weapon of mass destruction...and now it seems they want kids doing that work.

    Not quite sure there's an easy or gentle way of letting little Susie know that her cool little science experiment was responsible for 3 million lives lost. Good luck with that.

    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      Not quite sure there's an easy or gentle way of letting little Susie know that her cool little science experiment was responsible for 3 million lives lost. Good luck with that.

      You seriously think the military is gonna tell little Susie about what she was doing? It'll get buried as 'national security' so fast, little Susie won't have time to catch the bus home.

  • There's a lot to be said for ignorance, bunch of kids playing around my do something that is considered stupid or that'll never work by experts.
    TV Tropes has a few real life examples.
    DANGER TVTROPES link http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AchievementsInIgnorance [tvtropes.org]
  • Well, if it turns out anything like that story about a girl inventing a new way of combating cancer, we'll have one terrifyingly precise strike force. "We'll just release these tiny robots onto the battlefield, and when they cling to the terrorists, we'll scan them with a beam that triggers the robots to release X to immobilize/kill the bad guys and leave the good guys unharmed."
  • Look Mommy, I'm building a drone. Its gonna come down and shoot us... isn't that cool?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Did anyone go to the DARPA website and read what they're doing? They have lots of material on the objectives of the effort. They talk about signing contracts with several large companies and universities. This is your standard DARPA effort for thinking outside of the box. And I saw nothing, I repeat nothing, that suggests that DARPA is trying to subvert the youth of this country.

  • "In a world where warfare is fast becoming fielded by remote controlled and autonomous robots, innovation is the key to victory. The most technologically advanced superpower can see more, plan better, and attack from further away than its inferior adversaries. What better way to revolutionize the drone and robotics industry than use the brilliant minds of our children?"

    Hollywood, listen up. I might actually want to see this movie.

    On second thought, it might have to be an indie film due to the controversial nature -- Many people find brain extraction and cyberization [youtube.com] quite offensive, especially when the minds of children are on the table...

  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Friday January 27, 2012 @10:31AM (#38839043)

    Funded by the Department of Defense, the program comes with a steep cost: The DoD wants unlimited rights to everything the students build.

    How is this different that the call for all government funded University research to be publicly available?

    Is the DoD asking for exclusive access, or just access? Will they be able to take a kid's research, classify it, and forbid that kid from ever working in that area again? (See Gordon Gould and his laser research for an example)

    • Just looked up Gordon Gould. Lot of patent strife, most of which he instigated, but no sign of the government forbidding him from working on lasers. Could provide a cite, please, as this sounds interesting.
      • by toxygen01 (901511)
        I just sacrificed bunch of moderator points to share this with you:

        Bohm remained in Berkeley, teaching physics, until he completed his Ph.D. in 1943, by an unusually ironic circumstance. According to Peat (see reference below, p. 64), "the scattering calculations (of collisions of protons and deuterons) that he had completed proved useful to the Manhattan Project and were immediately classified. Without security clearance, Bohm was denied access to his own work; not only would he be barred from defending his thesis, he was not even allowed to write his own thesis in the first place!" To satisfy the university, Oppenheimer certified that Bohm had successfully completed the research. He later performed theoretical calculations for the Calutrons at the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, used to electromagnetically enrich uranium for use in the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

        source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bohm [wikipedia.org]
        paragraph Manhattan Project contributions

      • From http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/20/science/20gould.html [nytimes.com]

        Mr. Gould left Columbia and joined Technical Research Group, a company in Syosset, on Long Island, to try to turn to the laser into a practical device. The military provided $1 million, but Mr. Gould could not work on the research himself. He was denied security clearance because he had taken part in a Marxist study group with his first wife, Glen Fulwider, in the 1940's.

        There's much better coverage of Mr. Gould in actual books. They detail how his notebooks with the original laser design had been taken from him and classified so that he couldn't use them.

  • even though we get to keep your entry for ourselves </sarcasm>
  • ...get put in the sweat shops instead.
    Welcome to China 0.4
  • I don't see how this is any different than the agreements most of you signed at work .. basically if you produced it on the company's dime (or using the company's resources) .. it's their product.

    If you and your clever friends are so inclined, go talk to a venture capitalist, get some startup funding, build and patent some drones .. and then SELL them to the DoD.

    Part of the advantage of doing it as part of this project is the DoD will bend all sorts of rules for you that would make it all but impossible f
  • The U.S. and its attendant NGOs would be screaming from the rooftops about "child soldiers"...

    • by radtea (464814)

      The U.S. and its attendant NGOs would be screaming from the rooftops about "child soldiers"...

      Yes it would, which is pretty ironic given the US has been illegally holding Canadian child soldier Omar Khadr beyond the rule of law or access to your courts in Guantanamo Bay for almost a decade.

  • If we would build some "Star Craft" style robots, I am sure the South Koreans could defend themselves. Or maybe they could even take over the world!?!

    OK, never mind.

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