Mar 022005
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

It has been a while since I predicted the Doom of the Human Race, and even longer since I predicted that doom would come in the form of robots. Thankfully, the Pentagon announced recently it's working on robotic soldiers in a $127 billion project called Future Combat Systems. It'll be done around 2010.

So, we're all doomed. It's just a matter of how. The standard scenario is the one that Hollywood predicts every few years. The robots get too smart and do the whole revolt-of-the-workers thing, bloodily slaughtering their bourgeoisie masters.

Communist robots are the most likely scenario. Once our bones have long since been ground to make their nano-bread, they'll lord over the smoking crater that once was our ocean world. The whole smoking crater thing will be from the factories we used to make them in the first place, but this is still technically a robotic doom.

No, wait, that's not how we're doomed. We're doomed because of computer crashes. It'll be the year 2006, and Cyborg Bill Gates will announce a new version of Windows, which will be immediately installed into all of our Mutant Robot Soldiers. Things will go fine until we get into a war with Canada over the rights to mine Space Plasma.

This next part may seem harder to believe, but this new version of Windows will crash. Microsoft will apologize for the inconvenience and will collect the error reports, but the system will have to close. America will surrender to the simple, Mac-using Canadian Mounties.

And all right, let's assume they don't try to kill us or stop working altogether. What if they just suck? If you've ever played a video game, you know a lot of computer enemies can be thwarted by such tricky maneuvers as corners and trees.

A band of plucky pre-teens armed only with slingshots and determination could take out a whole squadron of robotic soldiers. That adorable kid from "Home Alone" would be a nigh-untouchable juggernaut of destruction. It'd be funny at first, but it wouldn't be so great when said kids took over our government and set our adults to slave in the bubblegum mines.

If we make them too smart, they kill us. But if we don't make them smart enough, they won't kill enough of us. Maybe, you're thinking, the military could strike a delicate balance between the two?

Sadly, the phrases "delicate balance" and "military" rarely go into the same sentence without the word "upset" appearing somewhere in there. To pick on another stereotype, military and intelligence, even artificial, usually gets more guffaws than applause. So no, your balance idea is bad, and we're still all doomed.

Or perhaps not. Maybe my pessimism is unfounded and everything will go off without a hitch. The soldier of the future will work out exactly as planned and none of us will be doomed. Except of course, if you're not one of us. Then you will be targeted for Termination.

Johnathan Kastner is a junior English major. His column runs every Thursday in the Dish

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