Entrepreneur Ben Way’s “rage against the machine”

Way’s London-based firm manufactures products in three major areas: weapons systems against robots; detection and monitoring of robotic entities; and "robo-viruses".

His website is a sci fi fanatic’s dream come true. Under the "weapons systems" tag line, there’s a breakdown of the arsenal that Way could conceivably launch against a robot army. "Autonomous against Autonomous (AAA) and Biological against Autonomous (BAA) systems". It’s enough to make a Transformer cry.

But is this for real?

Way says, yes.

"It is critical that we begin talking now about the long-term ethical implications the robot revolution will surely bring," he says. "The use of robotics in the military is on the up and, although the decision to take human life is currently still taken by another human, before long such decisions will be made by complex mathematical and logical rules programmed within a robot.

"Potentially the consequences of a computer crashing could be devastating. Hence, robotic defence is not just necessary for tackling combatants, but potentially for making sure we have control over our own weaponry."

Real Business just felt a shiver run down its magazine spine.

A press release on the company reads: "In the next five years we can expect to see ‘help-bots’ designed to make life easier for the disabled and elderly but, as the success of these machines becomes proven and investment in the consumer market increases, we will see an exponential increase in our daily interaction with robots.

"Within 15 years robots will be common place in the home, and in just another 15 it is likely that they will have the same physical abilities as humans."

But before you go and beat up your toaster, Way hasn’t actually sold any of these products yet. Or even unveiled them in their full glory. Although – and this is creepy – he has got academic endorsement.

Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence at Sheffield University, says: "This is the first real response that I have seen to the predicted rise in the use of autonomous military robots and it testifies to the dangerous slippery slope that we seem to be inevitably sliding down.

"Ben Way has certainly picked up on the magnitude of the impending threat of autonomous robot weapons to humanitarian war but it seems even more worrying that such steps are having to be taken. I really hope that it does not come down to the use of these devices."

So do we, readers. So do we.

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