Killer Robot Being Deployed to Combat Invasive Species
A team of engineers has reportedly created an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) for deployment to the Great Barrier Reef that will issue a lethal injection to an invasive species of starfish thought to be attributing to the destruction of coral life. The underwater robot will administer a dose of bile salts which are toxic to the ‘Crown of Thorns’ starfish. These creatures are listed in the top 100 most invasive species, being found accountable for the loss of some 40% of native aquatic life in the region.
The robot will cruise between 2-3 feet from the bottom of these estuaries, looking to target these predators using a complex algorithm working with sensors in cooperation with the bot’s on-board cameras. This sensing system has reportedly been optimized to minimize effects of the poison reaching and doing harm to non-target species. According to one engineer, “If the robot is unsure that something is actually a COTS (Crown of Thorns Starfish), it takes a photo of the object to be later verified by a human, and that human feedback is incorporated into the robot’s memory bank,”
As Asimov’s Laws of Robotics make no specific provisions for non-human animal life, developing robots for the purposes of annihilation of any living species remains a topic of intense ethical controversy.
The robot, dubbed COTSbot is still in the development phase and initially, all targeted wildlife will require human confirmation before the toxin is injected. The team plan to automate these processes, deploying fleets of the killer bots in order to scan and seek targets without human help.
What do you think of this idea, allowing robots to autonomously seek out and destroy another living species (invasive, or otherwise)? Does it challenge our reluctance not-to intervene in nature where we could be witnessing a case of ‘survival of the fittest’? Conversely, do human-related problems seem to offset this pragmatic take on conservation, to the point that we must atone for other irresponsible actions committed by our own species against these stressed ecological systems?
Should we perhaps be concerned about the nature of this technology used in alternative applications?
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