They were designed and built at a tremendous cost in order to keep our soldiers out of harm's way whenever possible. They've saved countless lives - both military and civilian, but they've never received a medal or a commendation or even a simple care package from a loved one.
That's because they're unthinking, unfeeling robots - but thanks to the efforts of a growing number of soldiers, some will receive a proper funeral.
Bomb disposal bots are simply high-tech tools, but according to the men and women who work with them every day, they can seem to develop personalities all their own. The Atlantic reports:
Their personalities, however, aren't so much developed as they're imposed by their human minders. In the heat of battle, and in the chaos of war zones, soldiers, it seems, tend to humanize their robotic aides. They develop emotional attachments to the machines that put themselves in harm's way so the humans don't have to.
Several soldiers have begun holding memorial services for robots destroyed during missions. The University of Washington's Julie Carpenter studied the bond between soldiers and their robots for her doctoral dissertation. What she found was fascinating:
According to Carpenter's research, the soldiers assigned their robotic companions "human or animal-like attributes, including gender." Furthermore, they "displayed a kind of empathy toward the machines." And "they felt a range of emotions such as frustration, anger, and even sadness when their field robot was destroyed." Some soldiers, Gizmodo has reported, "have even taken their robots fishing with them and let them hold the pole."
Indeed. While the soldiers "were very clear" about robots being tools, Carpenter explains, she also detected patterns in their descriptions suggesting that "they sometimes interacted with the robots in ways similar to a human or pet." Which, again, makes sense. "These robots are critical tools they maintain, rely on, and use daily," Carpenter puts it. "They are also tools that happen to move around and act as a stand-in for a team member, keeping Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel at a safer distance from harm."
You should read the article from the Atlantic - it's fascinating. And if you want to help me support the men and women of our Armed Services serving overseas, click here to join me in Operation Komando and help give back.