I’ll get to the cyborgs in a second, but before I do, I need to mention one last thing in regard to Wesley Snipes — in my three February posts you may have noticed that I said my lawyer/friend Dave-o and I were in Florida during his birthday week, which coincided with the first week of Snipes’s trial, January 14-18. Then last week I said we were there when the jury gave its verdict on Friday, February 1.

Allow me to explain. See, what happened was … hey, is that Wesley at the Oscars with Spike Lee?

Way to go, Wes! You used your negative trial publicity to get yourself invited to the Oscars last Sunday and remind everyone of the top-notch filmmakers you used to work with. Smart move. Now start getting into character for that James Brown biopic that Spike’s supposedly developing for you. Or go to prison. It’s your choice.

Scratch that — it isn’t your choice. But you’re famous, so you probably won’t go to prison. Then again, James Brown spent all of 1989 and 1990 in prison, but that’s because he led the police on a high-speed car chase and assaulted an officer after smoking PCP. All you did was not pay your taxes for six years, but you’ve learned your lesson, right?

I also hope you’ve learned your lesson about suing New Line Cinema for cutting you out of the decision-making process on Blade: Trinity, since one particular report from the set made it sound like you were smoking something other than cigarettes in your trailer most of the time and therefore weren’t in the best frame of mind for making decisions. But earlier this week New Line Cinema was shut down as a decision-making studio by its parent company, Time Warner, so I guess, in a small way, you won that battle. (Full disclosure: I once worked for Time Warner. That has nothing to do with anything since I was a low-level employee, but I like making myself sound important.)

Wait, what was I saying before I interrupted myself with that photo from the Oscars? Oh well, it probably wasn’t important.

But here’s something that’s very important, something that didn’t get the coverage it deserved last week:

Killer robots pose latest militant threat: expert

Yikes! If the post-colon part of that headline had been “some drunk guy,” I wouldn’t be alarmed right now, but it says “expert.” Experts don’t kid around. Probably because they don’t drink. Unless they’re drinking experts.

“Killer robots could become the weapon of choice for militants,” according to “a British expert” mentioned in the Reuters news item I found a few days ago. That’s right — a British expert. Done and done.

British people are smarter than us. They invented the language we’ve bastardized for over 200 years; they let us borrow the keys to America, which we never returned; and they gave us the Beatles and Monty Python (but nothing else of lasting cultural value, so don’t accuse me of being a turncoat). But they also like to drink — a lot — so maybe this expert isn’t to be trusted.

“Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, said he believed falling costs would soon make robots a realistic option for extremist groups.”

Oh, so he’s a professor too. And he’s talking money in a way I understand, so I’ll stop doubting him. Falling costs really are helpful, whether you’re buying your first DVD player or your first rocket launcher, so it makes sense that Islamic terrorists are anticipating a better Christmas in 2008 than the one they had in ’07.

But I’m not a terrorist, so how can I get my hands on my very own killer robot? And will I even want one after the terrorists have made them popular? Remember when the terrorists used those Japanese robot dogs to chase cars and then blow them up? That got old real quick.

“Several countries and companies are developing the technology for robot weapons, with the U.S. Department of Defense leading the way. More than 4,000 robots are deployed in Iraq.”

I didn’t know that. Are they like RoboCop, the cyborg movie hero from the ’80s and ’90s? I walked past Peter Weller, who played RoboCop in the first two films of that series, back in 2006 in Chicago. Up close he was shorter than I expected (to be fair, I too am shorter than I expected) and not too scary-looking, but on the fifth season of 24 he was very very very scary-looking, without any futuristic RoboCop armor or gory Rob Bottin-designed makeup effects. Weller gave me the creeps on 24, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Here’s one of the robots our soldiers are fighting alongside in Iraq:

Uh … that looks nothing like RoboCop. It looks like Johnny 5 from the Short Circuit movies but with the top half missing. And the top half was the good half because it was the half that talked jive.

I want to see jive-talking killer robots who defend our country from terrorists. That way, if a robot sassed me with some jive and I was like, “What’d you just say, robot?,” he’d be like, “The only reason your ass is alive is because of me, fool,” and then I’d have to admit he was right and the sassing wouldn’t sting so much.

It turns out that the pictured robot is used in Iraq for bomb detection, not covert assassinations or even expensive car chases with lots of cool explosions like the ones we saw in James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). In that film, killer robots started to take over the world on August 29, 1997, after starting a nuclear war between the United States and Russia. Bummer. But then Governor Schwarzenegger, disguised as an android, came back from the future and prevented Judgment Day from happening. Hooray! Four more years! Four more years! Then in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), Judgment Day happened anyway on July 25, 2004. Booooooo! Bring back Gray Davis!

According to that Reuters article, “Sharkey said a small GPS-guided drone with autopilot could be made for about 250 pounds ($490).” Yeah, but $490 won’t buy you this:

It might buy you a prostitute who looks like Kristanna Loken, who played the T-X Terminator in Terminator 3, but she won’t be a robot on the inside. Instead it’ll buy you something closer to this:

The Reuters caption says, “In this photo provided by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency/Carnegie Mellon, the Army’s new Crusher combat robotic vehicle makes its way through the desert Tuesday Feb. 19, 2008 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. This 6.5-ton, six-wheeled truck with a .50-caliber machine gun affixed to the top has no driver, no cargo hold for soldiers. Instead, the Crusher is an unmanned ground combat vehicle that will never see combat. The technology, including the software that drives the robot with little human intervention, is expected to be key in future projects.”

If we’re not going to use that thing in combat, then the terrorists will make a cheaper model and debut it first. Are you listening, current presidential hopefuls? It’ll get all the glory and the Guns & Ammo photo shoots, and before you know it the Crusher will be downgraded to a robot that picks up litter from the side of the road while Wesley Snipes completes his community service by teaching martial arts to underprivileged kids. A good trade-off for the star of 2000’s The Art of War, but not for America or its killer-robot-filled future.

Def Jef, “Black to the Future” (from 1989’s Just a Poet With Soul)
The Futureheads, “Robot” (from 2004’s The Futureheads)
James Brown, “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine [Pt. 1]” (from 1991’s 20 All-Time Greatest Hits!)

About the Author

Robert Cass

Robert Cass lives in Chicago. For Popdose he's written under the Sugar Water, Bootleg City, and Box Office Flashback banners and collaborated on the series 'Face Time with Jeff Giles and Mike Heyliger.

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