Movie-Plot Threat Alert: Robot Suicide Bombers

Let's all be afraid:

But it adds: "Robots that effectively mimic human appearance and movements may be used as human proxies."

It raised the prospects of terrorists using robots to plant and detonate bombs or even replacing human suicide bombers.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "This strategy looks at how technology might develop in future.

"Clearly it is important that we understand how those wishing us harm might use such technology in future so we can stay one step ahead."

The document also warns that nanotechnology will help accelerate development of materials for future explosives while advances in fabrics will "significantly" improve camouflage and protection.

I'm sure I've seen this stuff in movies.

Posted on August 18, 2009 at 6:16 AM • 83 Comments

Comments

Peter A.August 18, 2009 6:39 AM

What a nonsense!

Why should we be afraid of a technology that is decades or maybe even ages away while there are huge gaping holes in today's security measures? And even when such technology becames available still more decades would have to pass before a metal/polymer bomber would be easier and cheaper to get than a protein one.

BF SkinnerAugust 18, 2009 6:50 AM

Well there's this then ... http://xkcd.com/618/

Honestly. If a terrorist had the resources to use robots they would already be doing it. They use people because people are cheap guidance systems.

Shortly after 911 an Australian Radio Control enthusiast demonstrated the construction of a cruise missle with a range of 200 nm using off the shelf components.

So why aren't cheap cruise missles raining down on us?

A. Using people is cheaper, more horrible and easier
B. Terrorists aren't technically inclined
B.1 Terrorists don't have hobbies or read Make magazine
C. DHS and the Intell world are in fact pretty efficient at stopping threats
D. There just aren't that many terrorists and the threat is being oversold by
---New World Order
---The man trying to keep us down
---Liberals pushing their agenda
---Conservatives pushing their agenda
---Apocryphalists to bring on the second coming
---Aliens reading an abridged version of "To Serve Man"

XXXAugust 18, 2009 7:05 AM

Oh, why they didn't tell that terrorists will bio-engineer cockroaches to detonate in supermarkets...
I'd would be as serious as this, but more freash & funny :-)

pietAugust 18, 2009 7:14 AM

Again, should we laugh or cry?
If terrorists ever will have that kind of technology, they will use it to build proper weapons, not to blow up 30 million worth of robotics. The only reason they are using humans with explosives is that its simple and cheap.

*Osama, with our evil activities we made 60 million dollars, what should we do with it?*
*Well, lets NOT build 20 trainigcamps in afghanistan, lets hire a team of engineers to assemble a robot that looks exactly like a human AND carries explosives*
*But thats just like a normal human*
*Exactly, they will never see that one coming!!*

Well think again Osama ;)

A Nonny BunnyAugust 18, 2009 7:18 AM

Well, at least they're not worried yet about terrorist using nanotechnology in a "grey goo" scenario. Once you have one self-replicating nanite, just smuggle it to your target and let it devour the country.
Seems like a better story than using it to develop explosives.

Oll Be BokkAugust 18, 2009 7:25 AM

The military and law enforcement are using robots a lot. It logically follows that those whom they are fighting will eventually catch on and start using them too.

Robots won't necessarily show up on FLIR the way that people will. They can be more mobile, as in airborne and waterborne. They can carry cameras to perform reconnaissance. And if they're damaged, no one dies. You just send another machine.

If robots weren't a real threat, the military wouldn't be using them so much themselves.

I agree that the whole "robots that are made to look like humans" thing sounds like someone's been overdosing on Terminator movies. What people doing threat assessment need to worry about are robots that DON'T look like humans in the slightest: small, fast, not detectable by the same way you can detect humans, and able to go where humans can't easily go. Expect the unexpected.

uk visaAugust 18, 2009 7:25 AM

Would that the HO would concentrate on solving today's (and yesterday's!) problems before working on imagining the problems of tomorrow.

Stephen SeidmanAugust 18, 2009 7:55 AM

This is all reminiscent of the frightening dystopian vision in Arthur C. Clarke's story "Second Variety".

MoeAugust 18, 2009 8:00 AM

> advances in fabrics will "significantly" improve camouflage and protection.

Thanks for the warning! I'll warn Grandma to watch out for any potential terrorists at the fabric store.

Some of those old ladies look pretty shifty if you ask me...

anonymous canuckAugust 18, 2009 8:13 AM

"a cruise missle with a range of 200 nm using off the shelf components."

200 nm - not much of a cruise range.

Was that perhaps 200m?

Still sounds like thats well beneath the ranges of things like hand held missles, rpgs and the like.

PicadorAugust 18, 2009 8:33 AM

They forgot about the biggest future threat: terrorists going back in time and helping the Nazis win World War II!

cowardAugust 18, 2009 8:35 AM

Hello?!? USA?
You can't afford worrying about this kind of sci-fi shit.
U r BROKE!

RSaundersAugust 18, 2009 8:36 AM

@Oll: Military forces use robots because they have essentially unlimited resources, subject only to losing public support through high casualties. Money = easy IFF Soldiers ^= killed. Thus expensive robots are a good deal.

Terrorists have resource constraints and a sales pitch to convince folks that getting killed is a Good Thing. Robots cost a lot of money and don't capitalize on their sales pitch.

The situations are completely reversed, that's why this situation is labeled asymmetric warfare.

cowardAugust 18, 2009 8:38 AM

> Shortly after 911 an Australian Radio Control enthusiast demonstrated the
> construction of a cruise missle with a range of 200 nm using off the shelf
> components.

No he didn't. First of all he was from NZ, and second he quit, supposedly after being pressured by government officials. Others say he quit because he couldn't make it work, and the pressure consisted of the tax authorities going after him for NOT PAYING his taxes for years.
Conspiracy theory stuff.

DavidAugust 18, 2009 8:53 AM

And let us not forget the early cruise missiles, on display at Cape Canaveral last time I was there. They had much longer range than 200 nautical miles, but the big question was which continent or ocean they'd hit - and the answer really couldn't be confined to one hemisphere.

I see no problem with making a cruise missile capable of traveling more than 200nm. A standard aircraft with an autopilot is essentially a cruise missile. Did the NZ guy expect to hit anything the size of Australia?

BetaAugust 18, 2009 8:54 AM

So it's all a lot of nonsense and there's nothing to worry about, eh? Very reassuring... except that that's exactly what a bunch of killer robots would say.

Seriously, a technically competent terrorist could do impressive things with simple robotics (the kind that actually exists today), but it's really hard to imagine a scenario in which that same terrorist couldn't do equally impressive things without it.

Brother CylonAugust 18, 2009 9:06 AM

Perhaps they have been watching too much Battlestar Galactica.

All of this has happened before, all of this will happen again. So say we all!

HJohnAugust 18, 2009 9:24 AM

There have been recent terrorists scares in Chicago. But they finally determined that the stinch of gasoline and hazardous materials was just the Cubs bullpen.

A little pre-coffee attempt at humor to start the day.

markAugust 18, 2009 9:27 AM

If the robots aren't self-aware, then they can't be committing suicide. If they ARE self-aware, then why would terrorists waste them on bombs? There's money to be made!

the dudeAugust 18, 2009 9:32 AM

already done, the v1 buzz bomb was a robot, not very precise, but just light the big engine and point it at england.
your almost certain to get a hit if you start at calais.

CAugust 18, 2009 9:46 AM

Gee, lets make a REALLY expensive robot and then blow it up. Totally realistic. I don't see why terrorists aren't doing it now.

Oh, right, they're too expensive. And even more expensive to make them look like humans, and lets not even get into the time it takes to build let alone program them.

Maybe sometime in the distant future. Until then the terrorists will have to continue using cheap-expendable peons to setup the bomb or blow themselves up unkowingly. No, I'm not trying to demean human life here; just making a point about an unreleastic future possibility vs the reality of what we sometimes see now.

MiramonAugust 18, 2009 9:53 AM

Zomgs! I mean, we've all seen those plausible humanoid robots amongst us already. Many seem to be in elected office, and the rest are employed as anchors and newsreaders.

derfAugust 18, 2009 10:01 AM

I'm more worried about the military's autonomous drones. I think I've seen even more movies about problems with "thinking" machines.

acAugust 18, 2009 10:11 AM

Looks more like a govt dept with too much money and too much time on its hands. Looks like a govt dept that is ripe for culling. I hope.

AustringerAugust 18, 2009 10:28 AM

As a chemist, I'm tickled by the nanotechnology for making explosives concept as you could theoretically make a robot that looked like a person if you didn't look at it too hard but no amount of R&D is going to change how much energy you can put in chemical bonds. That terroists often settle for acetone peroxide rather than an explosive that anyone in their right mind would use for legitimate blasting kind of suggests to me that figuring out what would happen if Dr. No and Count Blofeld teamed up is wasted energy.

mcbAugust 18, 2009 11:03 AM

Hmmn, Maria from Metropolis, half of the replicants in Bladerunner, Eve of Destruction, two of three Terminators, the Fembots in Austin Powers, the Caprica line in Battlestar Galactica... The most interesting humanoid killer robots (can) appear female. The males are easier to spot and usually provide comic relief. Pass it on.

Clive RobinsonAugust 18, 2009 11:19 AM

Pound (lb) for pound and dollar for dollar a twenty something male with a back pack or van full of explosive is going to win every time for many reasons (which I'm not going to go into).

Historicaly during WW1 the first auto pilot weapons (ie ship to ship torpedoes) where developed to the point of being effective devices of war. At the same time aircraft reached the point of being effective weapons delivery platforms.

During WWII the torpeado developed to much the same place it is today (Mk48 etc) in terms of mechanics. Arguably the first auto pilot aircraft bombs where developed and both the Germans and Japanese fielded them. The simplest was the Japanese "jet stream" ballon bombs, which was possibly the first deployed unmaned inter continental air weapon.

The German V1 was simply a short wing body with a cheap argus tube engine one ton of explosives in the nose and a simple gyro direction and air log distance system.

All of which is well within the abilities of degree students today (as are small scale V2 rockets etc).

In more recent times the Tamil Tigers "reportedly" developed not only their own air force and navy but auto pilot aircraft bombs.

The simple fact is though that the V1 showed that such simple systems are ineffective even against even the largest populated area at the time (London) and where relativly easy to bring down with prop driven aircraft.

However you can buy for relativly modest amounts of money jet engines about the size of a cola can and up that can produce sufficient thrust to lift about 200lb of aircraft / missile etc ( http://www.airtoi.com/ljet.htm ). Just recently a crazy European developed his own personal jet powered wings to fly him the 30 odd miles for a English channel crossing.

There are also "student web sites" where software projects to get NEMA sentances out of GPS units and use to provide guidence info have software to download.

All the bits are very much out there but...

You would have to produce prototypes, and jet engines although available are not exactly every day purchases on credit cards etc (especially in any quantity) and you will get rumbled as being a "raw novice" within a couple of questions if you spoke to the companies supplying them.

However you do need to remember the power plant in some crusie missiles is actually a jet engine and the launching system involves getting it up to flying speed by a number of well proven techniques.

So yes it can certainly be done, and I suspect is well within the capabilities of a group of engineering students.

But the brains and ability required to do it are unlikley to make you the sort to be a terrorist etc. And an attempt to aquire reasonable quantities of power plants etc are going to attract the attention of the authorities.

Clive RobinsonAugust 18, 2009 11:43 AM

For a movie plot I would actually be more woried about...

Tom Sharp (the author) came up with a plot where six comunist cell infiltrators tried to out do each other with trying to come up with more ludicrous terrorist attack weapons.

The story had them putting a couple of ounces of plastic explosives with "time pencil" detonators into condoms covering the result with honey and oats and feeding them to zoo ostriches that they then released on an unsuspecting town.

Although a (very funny) story doing something equally as "off the wall" might well work.

Imagine if you will the effect of filling a sadle basket type harnes with 100llb pound of explosives attaching them to a number of semi wild horses and letting them lose in times square etc...

Pat CahalanAugust 18, 2009 12:05 PM

I'm a little more afraid of Neural Robotics and their remote controlled helicopters with the AA-12 mounted on it than I am a human analog robot with a built-in self destruct.

Why spend the resources to make a human analog when you can schelp your ordinance around in the air?

R.August 18, 2009 12:13 PM

I think someone has just read Asimov's classic science fiction mystery "The Caves of Steel".

AnonAugust 18, 2009 12:21 PM

Are not Car-Bombs robot bombs? Or are they Cyborg bombs as they have some biological components (drivers)?

GeorgeAugust 18, 2009 12:26 PM

Yes, but will the TSA's Behavior Detection Officers be able to reliably distinguish robot suicide bombers from human passengers? History suggests they won't.

MarkHAugust 18, 2009 12:35 PM

"Clearly it is important that we understand how those wishing us harm might use such technology in future so we can stay one step ahead."

Clear to whom? I love the way these kinds of people shamelessly lie in pursuit of taxpayers' money. They say that something is "clearly" so, when it is blindingly obvious that it ain't.

The SERIOUS threat is humans who can mimic robots (for an example, see any of a hundred or so editions of Soul Train from the early 80's). Clearly, this capability could be exploited by terroristic terrorists in terrifying ways. Ought to be some way to squeeze a couple of million quid outa this.

EdT.August 18, 2009 1:04 PM

Even worse, the terrs could distribute these suicide robot-bombers by selling them on Info-mercials!

Just think: your Roomba could all of a sudden turn into a Boomba!

~EdT.

GregAugust 18, 2009 1:06 PM

1. Get a crappy used car
2. Put a mannequin in the driver's seat and explosives hidden in the car
3. Remote-control the steering and acceleration mechanism and affix cheap wireless cameras for navigation
4. Explode at the checkpoints, where they would determine that the driver is not human

Do this enough and pretty soon, no one will man the checkpoints.

JohnAugust 18, 2009 1:12 PM

Ooh, ooh!

William Goldman wrote an awful sequel to "Marathon Man" that was thankfully never made into a movie. It involved a secret project to develop robotic children that were actually nuclear bombs.

I remember it mainly because one of the mad scientist villains was a linguist whose specialty was teaching the cute little robot children to speak with the correct accents.

John

ShaneAugust 18, 2009 1:13 PM

@Clive

"So yes it can certainly be done, and I suspect is well within the capabilities of a group of engineering students. But the brains and ability required to do it are unlikley to make you the sort to be a terrorist etc."

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/06/...

Not that those results were at all conclusive in proving their premise, but still, the numbers suggest that plenty of classically trained engineers *are in fact involved in terrorist activities.

You know, to split hairs and such.

BF SkinnerAugust 18, 2009 1:17 PM

" your terminators just be suicide bombers?"

Good point. If you're going to spend 10 million on a weapon why waste it in one event when you can use it over and over again. Humans are cheaper. At least I'm sure that's why we never hear of Al-Queda leadership wiring themselves up in a suicide belt. Cowards.

@MarkH - "important that we understand how those wishing us harm might use such technology"

I'm not sure I agree entirly Mark...that's what risk management is supposed to be all about. Isn't it? What can happen, what might and what won't happen. All technology has risks from enviornmental destruction to catastrophic failure.

It should probably be graded on a curve. I'd grade this 'un at 8 sigma.


Angel OneAugust 18, 2009 1:17 PM

The fact that technology keeps getting better, cheaper, and more accessible to everyone is simply a truism of life. I'm sure that one day terrorists WILL be using robotic suicide bombers. However by the time they do, we will have robotic defenses (as we actually already do in much of the military - see "Wired for war" by PW Singer), so it will all come out even.

Timmy303August 18, 2009 1:28 PM

Scientists are already testing "nanobees": microscopic toxin delivery systems that migrate to tumors and kill them (http://mednews.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/14432.html). I'd see the covert militarization of this and the above mentioned technologies and their subsequent falling into the wrong hands as quite serving to the typical terrorist bang-for-the-buck.

It has, believe it or not, occurred to those that run terrorist networks that the depletion of manpower that their methods brings isn't doing them any favors. It's only a matter of time.

pietAugust 18, 2009 1:28 PM

@Clive Robinson: I wouldnt be so sure about the inverse relation between education and being a terrorist. All 911 terrorists were college level educated as far as I know

RandyAugust 18, 2009 1:42 PM

Everyone stop lying to yourselves...

*YOU* want that job, creating all these cool movie plot threats!

I wonder how much you can get for a good screen play?

Randy

bobAugust 18, 2009 2:27 PM

I think an overlooked upcoming threat is terrorists smuggling bombs disguised as golf balls into the US.

Obviously it is critical that our government immediately address this threat, so I will apply for funding to get memberships in all the best golf clubs in the US and I will pretend to be a golfer and travel on the taxpayers money all around the country pretending to play golf while actually examining at least 1 golf ball per hole for explosives. I regret that I have but one life to dedicate to my country in this fashion, but public service is my calling.

Nomen PublicusAugust 18, 2009 2:28 PM

The first attack on the World Trade Center was a truck bomb in the underground garage. It took out a couple of parking levels and killed six people.

One could still leave a similar car bomb in any supermarket car park and kill a lot more people on a Saturday morning.

Yet it doesn't happen.

It seems that terrorists are obsessed with high profile sites rather than with high impact sites.

Clive RobinsonAugust 18, 2009 2:29 PM

@ Shane,

"You know, to split hairs and such."

When you get to my age you don't have to many hairs to split even amongst friends 8)

More seriously though the paper that Bruce put up for that blog posting was fairly well jumped on by many people. As you say,

"Not that those results were at all conclusive in proving their premise,"

They where not even convincing for any number of reasons.

As you also said,

"but still, the numbers suggest that plenty of classically trained engineers *are in fact involved in terrorist activities."

The authors of the paper actually showed very little and failed to show what effects demographics of their chosen test subjects where.

In short as I remember it it was not a very good paper and posters to the blog shredded it fairly well.

The problem with "right brained" trick cyclists trying to say thngs about "left brained" engineers and other creative types is that on mass they actually refuse to test people with "left hand traits" etc as they tend to upset their little "mind models" quite a lot.

A friend of mine involved proffessionaly in the field on being asked by me why they deliberatly excluded 20% of the population from their experiments replied,

"The trouble with you lefties is your brains are not wired right"

Which although amusing shows a major problem with the research methods.

You have to ask if they are using the science of Newton or that prior even to Aristotle, where the hypothosis is the thing and all contary evidence will be excluded...

@ piet,

"All 911 terrorists were college level educated as far as I know"

I think you need to read what I said again,

"But the brains and ability required to do it are unlikley to make you the sort to be a terrorist etc."

With in the context (ability to make a self guiding airbourn weapon).

I would say that most "college level educated" persons do not possess the ability not just from a lack of knowledge but from the ability to apply it in a workable manner.

To put it bluntly most surgeons and engineers can do both law and accountancy if they have a need to. The opposit is most certainly not true.

mcbAugust 18, 2009 2:45 PM

@ Greg

"1. Get a crappy used car
2. Put a mannequin in the driver's seat...
3. Remote-control the steering and acceleration mechanism and affix cheap wireless cameras for navigation
4. Explode..."

Sounds like a slightly above average episode of "Mythbusters"

JoeAugust 18, 2009 2:56 PM

I miss the old days when the first thought people had in response to the idea of humaniform robots was sex.

ShaneAugust 18, 2009 3:04 PM

@Clive

"You have to ask if they are using the science of Newton or that prior even to Aristotle, where the hypothosis is the thing and all contary evidence will be excluded..."

'If all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail', right right, I understand your point, and IIRC I was openly critical of the research as well, but my contributions were removed for 'religion bashing', since I tend to do that quite frequently :P

Again though, in the spirit of your reply, vis-a-vis the above quote, seems to me you were jumping to conclusions as well, in support of the hypothesis first, especially considering that, generally speaking, no matter what your background, it's 'unlikely to make you the sort to be a terrorist'... the thought being that terrorists, on the whole, constitute an incredibly minute subset of the world population ;) Singling out engineers seems a bit moot.

Seems a silly point to talk to death, but I mean to say that I don't believe that the larger terrorists organizations are completely lacking in members with the ability to create ballistic missiles.

Although one point I don't recall seeing made is the fact that testing a ballistic missile anywhere in the world is sort of guaranteeing attention from the superpowers. We can see this with Iran, N. Korea, et al. It's hard to detonate a warhead of any substantial power without making it known that you did so, even if you have deep underground testing facilities.

Basically though, and quite more to the point, if the 'quick and dirty' tactics are cheap and effective, you don't have to be a college graduate to realize that making things more complicated isn't necessary, or even necessarily beneficial.

Death to America BotAugust 18, 2009 3:14 PM

Joe at August 18, 2009 2:56 PM : "I miss the old days when the first thought people had in response to the idea of humaniform robots was sex."


Then why are there 59 comments, and not a single joke about 72 robot virgins?

edAugust 18, 2009 3:46 PM

@Shane

You don't need ballistic missile creation skills in your organization if you can purchase prebuilt units, or you can outsource to another provider (e.g. North Korea). Then you mostly need money.

cowardAugust 18, 2009 4:02 PM

> There are also "student web sites" where software projects to get NEMA
> sentances out of GPS units

This is a standard feature of every GPS chipset. Simple serial datastream that even the cheapest microcontrollers can understand.

> jet engines although available are not exactly every day purchases on
> credit cards etc (especially in any quantity) and you will get rumbled as
> being a "raw novice" within a couple of questions if you spoke to the companies
> supplying them.

These model jet engines are widely available, no questions asked. At least here in Europe.I could buy one or two and pay cash for them if I wanted to. They are being used in increasing numbers by the RC model crowd.
Such jet engines have recently been used to propel manned (!) glider planes with a wingspan of 60ft and a weight of over 1000 pounds.

> So yes it can certainly be done, and I suspect is well within the capabilities of
> a group of engineering students.

Wrong. It's well within the capabilities of a somewhat skilled RC model builder.

Cheap/free open source autopilots (hard- and software) are also available.

Davi OttenheimerAugust 18, 2009 5:34 PM

"replacing human suicide bombers"

Huh? Does economics or supply logic fit into this? C pointed some of this out above already.

Does the Home Office honestly believe they will disrupt the supply of human subjects such that bombers will be forced to resort to technology substitutes? Do they have any evidence that people are less prone to become suicide subjects? Or is it just that bots somehow are supposed to soon be a more reliable/efficient delivery? I think we'd sooner see animals and legacy technology (e.g. more automation in vans, trucks and tractors) than robots.

Davi OttenheimerAugust 18, 2009 5:48 PM

@ D

Agreed. The bit about "human proxies" is either a part of or a result from "surrogates" marketing.

Speaking of bombs the movie has posted some super lame billboards all over US cities.

Seems like underwear models have had sections replaced to look mechanical; like a beginning photoshop class asked to apply the Terminator theme to ads from the Macy's ladies department.

I think one of the best surrogate scifi stories is still the hologram on Red Dwarf.

John CampbellAugust 18, 2009 6:16 PM

@Greg:

"Do this enough and pretty soon, no one will man the checkpoints."

No, the checkpoints will be manned by robots.

"Papers, Please..."

Oh, wait, with RFID chips they'd just stare and wave...

Russell CokerAugust 18, 2009 6:24 PM

I once saw a TV documentary where some Palestinians dug a tunnel under an Israeli base and packed it with explosives. For some reason they decided to stay in there when it detonated rather than setting a timer and going somewhere safe. It appears that at least some suicide bombers actually want to die in the attack even when it's not necessary.

The use of robots by the US military is driven by the huge value they place on lives on the battlefield. Spending $10,000,000 to save one life on the battlefield is considered to be a good idea (although spending a much smaller amount on medical and psychological care for veterans apparently is not considered to be worth-while). When prosecuting a war you want depends on not having many casualties on the battlefield you have to spend serious amounts of money to protect people.

The people who recruit suicide bombers have much different constraints. They don't need to have 51% of the population vote for a party that wants war. If even 0.1% of the population support their cause then that will be a large enough pool of potential suicide-bombers. Also the countries where they operate often have external factors that drive support for their cause. Every military strike against a civilian area drives support for guerilla operations.

There seem to have been good efforts made to cut the funding to terrorist groups. So terrorists probably have little money, but they have lots of supporters - some of whom can be convinced to do suicide-bombing. We should expect that every organisation will attempt to conserve resources that are in short supply (people for the US and money for al Quaeda) and will freely spend resources that are plentiful (money for the US and people for al Quaeda).

As has been pointed out already, it's silly to use the term "suicide bomber" in reference to a robot. I think that this is a symptom of a larger media obsession with "suicide bombers". It's not as if being prepared to die for a cause is anything unusual, it's pretty common in the history of warfare. I expect that most soldiers in WW1 knew what to expect when they lept out of trenches in the face of machine-gun fire. There are many other examples.

NeighborcatAugust 18, 2009 8:00 PM

Terrorists could use evil humanoid robots to infiltrate the US?

Well, that does explain Dick Cheney...

NC

David DonahueAugust 18, 2009 8:21 PM

From a Terrorist perspective, suicide bombers can be manufactured at minimal cost as well. I read a credible new story that al-Qaida connected cells would rape Iraqi women and then a secret and sympathetic accomplice would convince the victims that doing a suicide bombing was the only way to heal the taint to the victim's family honor.

In some Muslim cultures the woman is always to blame for these kinds of rape and this is a very successful terrorist recruiting technique, resulting in 80+ woman bombers.

See this horrific article at: http://newsone.com/world/...

anonymousAugust 18, 2009 8:46 PM

> "Papers, Please..."
> Oh, wait, with RFID chips they'd just stare and wave...


No, papers will still be required, since failure to produce them will be something else we can be charged with.

It's why we're required to have a dead-tree copy of the vehicle registration in our cars, even though the the police officer already has that information after doing a check on the license plates.

tensorAugust 18, 2009 11:55 PM

"Terrorists could use evil humanoid robots to infiltrate the US?
Well, that does explain Dick Cheney..."

The next generation of infiltrating terrorist robots will even appear lifelike! ;)

"We should expect that every organisation will attempt to conserve resources that are in short supply (people for the US and money for al Quaeda) and will freely spend resources that are plentiful (money for the US and people for al Quaeda)."

Exactly. The killer robot (esp. in the shape of a human) would seem to be more well suited as a Mafia hit-man, or a version of James Bond who won't drink, gamble, or womanize himself into compromising positions.

GalwAugust 19, 2009 1:15 AM

@ A Nonny Bunny

I thought of grey goo also. Thats the thing to be afraid about in nanotechnology.

RogerAugust 19, 2009 4:55 AM

@coward, @BF Skinner
> ... he quit, supposedly after being pressured by government officials.

Australia and New Zealand are both signatories to the Missile Technology Control Regime (an international arms control treaty that seeks to control the spread of cruise missiles.) As such, if this incident occurred at all the "pressure" the government would have applied would be arrest and criminal prosecution.

Peter A.August 19, 2009 5:26 AM

@ Galw

Worrying about a gray goo is only little short of worrying about alien invasion.

The "gray goo" concept is pretty much the same as "universal solvent" of XV-century alchemists.

Better worry about sunspots.

StephanieAugust 19, 2009 6:51 AM

@ moe

"Thanks for the warning! I'll warn Grandma to watch out for any potential terrorists at the fabric store."

'Senile delinquents' I think you are onto something, sounds like the Hell's Grannies plot explored by Monty Python maybe you can get a federal grant to explore that for DHS. : )

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CStfT8gCrjM

jonAugust 19, 2009 6:54 AM

What the paper describes is a letter bomb: an explosive device that can be readily conveyed to very precise and specific targets by a technological system. It succeeds because it sufficiently masks its appearance in order to not appear suspicious. See also car and truck bombs, anthrax and otherly poisoned letters, and scenarios that involve nukes on freighters or in shipping containers.

The letter bomb is a superior tactic because it parasitically exploits the resources of another entity to provide additional legitimacy of appearance, as well as to do the heavy lifting of transport and delivery.

When destruction of a target might be sufficiently important, difficult to achieve with existing tactics, and technology becomes sufficiently dispersed, available, and understood, then terrorists can be expected to try to take advantage of it. Various militaries are likely to develop the capability first, so their progress bears watching.

Humans are wired to intensively scrutinize other humans in order to recognize individuals. It will be a tremendous challenge to crate an automaton that convincingly mimics a person for any length of time. This may be a problem, but it is one that is larger than potential terrorist menaces - and I believe that Blade Runner was an inquiry into that subject.

Obviously, we would be foolish to discount potential terrorism vectors simply because they seem currently improbable. But we should be somewhat judicious in where we focus our attention and resources. Since we do not inspect every shipping container entering the country, or the parcels being mailed and shipped, and we seem to accept that whomever mailed dozens of anthrax letters will never be apprehended, the risk from exploding robots is likely to remain even less of a concern. Still, I would like to connect with some of that sweet research funding, so that I might create and explore science fiction terrorism scenarios. As long as I retain the film rights.

JohnAugust 19, 2009 8:44 AM

Humans are cheap and more fun to make than robots. Terrorist camps often have lacking moral fiber too (as did the Nazis, and other such groups), so small children not useful for walking bombs are useful for other things... and then useful for bombs before long (what, a 10 year old can carry a dynamite vest).

D0RAugust 19, 2009 4:17 PM

"The warning came as the Government appealed to inventors to come forward with their ideas for anti-terrorism gadgets."

Bruce, they copied your Movie Plot Threat Contest !!!

HumHoAugust 19, 2009 8:28 PM

"They forgot about the biggest future threat: terrorists going back in time and helping the Nazis win World War II!"

ha ha, that was a good one! Telegraph should write an article about it too...;-)

Or how about:
A. invisibility cloak+bomb+terrorist
B. teleportation+bomb+terrorist

engAugust 19, 2009 9:11 PM

Given that you can buy "life size realistic looking" baby dolls, given the state of simple tech for movie props, why not bring Semtex aboard a plane in an artificial "baby robot"? Of course you can also hollow out a real baby...

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