Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Our wars used to be fought on foot, but then we harnessed horses for battle. Swords were our weapon of choice until guns were invented. Chariots slowly evolved into tanks, and in less than 100 years this [picture of the wright bros], turned into this [video of a stealth bomber]. But the change that’s now underway will be the most significant in human history, as soldiers from the world’s richest countries will soon rarely come face to face with their enemies. This is a profile of the robotic takeover of the world’s militaries. For years now, the military of the United States and our closest allies, the Europeans, Israel, and South Korea have been using a whole range of robotic systems, like remotely controlled robots, now commonly used for surveillance and for destroying bombs; close-in weapons systems onboard virtually every ship in the west’s Navy can destroy incoming missiles, aircraft and smaller, faster boats all without human assistance; autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles guard areas and attack enemies using lethal and non-lethal weapons; the MQ Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is a long-range killer that’s so effective, America’s 174th Fighter Wing has became the first squadron in history to convert from flying fighter jets to an all–remotely piloted UAV attack group; the secretive stealth unmanned RQ-170 drone that the US lost control of over Iran in 2011; tiny surveillance drones the size of small birds or insects; a robotic, remote-controlled sentry gun that’s replacing human guards on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone and for Israel, along the Gaza border fence; and the Protector, an unmanned speed boat used by the Singapore Navy to patrol the busiest port in the world; the Israeli Navy to enforce its blockade of the Gaza Strip; and the Mexican Navy to confront highly creative drug smugglers. Some have called for a halt in the development of military robotics technology, but the US, its allies, and key adversaries continue to make their militaries as technologically advanced as possible because of the massive tactical advantage it gives them. The Pentagon currently deploys some 11,000 UAVs and 12,000 ground robots across the world, making America the clear leader. But China has already demonstrated several prototype systems that may be just as sophisticated as some in the American arsenal. This is setting off a regional arms race of sorts as Japan, South Korea and Singapore feel the need to respond with significant investments of their own. The Russians have begun deploying armed robots to increase security at its ballistic missile bases and may deploy unmanned airships to monitor its interests in the Arctic. Worldwide, military spending on the robotics industry is projected to hit $7.5 billion by 2018. But its not just governments doing the investing. Google has begun buying up robotics companies, positioning itself to dominate the commercial market, estimated to be worth around $37 billion by 2018. Google - or another tech company like it - could become the next generation’s dominant defense contractor. Some of the projects that we know are in development for military use and should hit the battlefield in the coming years include: the Knifefish, an underwater minesweeping robot that will replace the Navy’s trained dolphins and sea lions in 2017; an unmanned autonomous helicopter carrying a remotely operated sniper rifle; unmanned ground vehicles of the future will increasingly perform automated surveillance, reconnaissance, assault and breaching missions. Other UGVs will simply be retrofits of existing humvees and tanks with sensors and cameras; Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robots - used for search and rescue - and their BigDog robotic pack mule to accompany soldiers into terrain that’s too difficult for conventional vehicles; unmanned missile barges will provide extra weapons for existing destroyers; cruise missiles that are smart and networked to autonomously coordinate and swarm their attack so as to ensure maximum damage to their target; a Joint Aerial Layer Network will link all air assets with all other military assets in a region to provide maximum coordination and efficiency; high-speed, unmanned fighters and bombers will fly alongside manned aircraft until they take over the air force completely. They’ll be piloted by soldiers located safely back on a ship, or on some faraway base; And undetectable underwater pods will be placed in the ocean weeks, months, or even years ahead of time and eventually given a command to release unmanned submarines or unmanned aerial vehicles that will float to the surface and then take to the air. The reason that militaries will turn to robots to fight its battles is obvious: it’ll keep their soldiers from getting killed and it will greatly enhance national security and defense capabilities. But, like many problems posed by our increasingly technological world, removing the human connection to what war viscerally feels like on the ground, where it’s being fought, will create a whole new set of challenges. Many of the American pilots now flying drone missions in Iraq and Afghanistan already do so from places like Arizona, far away from the battlefield, which means they can bomb a group of people, and then half an hour later be sitting safely at home with their families. It’s no surprise that this extreme daily contrast is causing these soldiers to experience high rates of PTSD. Then there’s the idea that by further removing the human cost of war from the equation, we risk becoming more tolerant of our governments engaging in armed conflicts. And then there’s the unknown: what happens when two nuclear armed states engage in a direct, robots-on-robots battle? How does one win that kind of conflict? And, when does losing one justify starting a war between living, breathing human beings? For better or worse, these are questions we’re going to learn the answers to in the first half of the 21st century, so we better get to work creating some agreed-upon international standards before its too late. If you enjoyed this video, hit that like button or share it to start your own conversation. Click on the screen to watch a TED Talks that explores some of these challenges, or our newest video, or a video about how robots are probably going to take almost all of our jobs. You can take our poll: will the rise of robots in our militaries ultimately be a good or bad thing for mankind? Thanks for watching. For the daily conversation, I’m Bryce Plank.