An old trope of science fiction, from Asimov to the Teminator series, is the robot uprising. But robots have already started taking over - at least in the US military, where robots now carry out 33,000 missions per year.

Call them the New Hessians: Like the German troops hired by the Brits to fight in the Revolutionary War, these robots show us outsourcing our fight. But in this case, not just to another nation, but away from the human race entirely.


This article from the New Zealand Herald says that not only are killer robots here: "At their current rate of acceleration they will become the dominant method of war for rich countries in the 21st century."

Shocking, eh?

But we live in a world of such whooshing technological transformation that the concept has leaped in just five years from the cinema screen to the battlefield - with barely anyone back home noticing... When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, they had no robots as part of their force. By the end of 2005, they had 2400. Today, they have 12,000, carrying out 33,000 missions a year... A report by the US Joint Forces Command says autonomous robots will be the norm on the battlefield within 20 years.


Of course, one on hand it can save lives to have "drones" dropping bombs rather than risking flesh-and-blood soldier and pilots. But overall, not sure this is good news. Asimov's fictional universe relied on The Three Law of Robotics to keep them in check. In the Dune novels, the human race fights a war โ€” "the Butlerian jihad" โ€” to keep intelligent robots ("thinking machines") from taking over, and they are banned ever after.

Not sure we'd stand a chance against one of these killer robots, though. And they're just gonna get meaner and faster.


Image Brendon Thorne/Getty