In 1984 the movie Terminator brought to live the dark dystopian fantasy of killer robots designed to ruthlessly hunt down human targets and destroy them. We’ve come a long way since then, and in the last 15 years, drone aircraft have been deployed by the military, although as far as we know, these still require a human being to pull the trigger before bombing whatever target has been selected for elimination.

Meanwhile, Boston Dynamics has been steadily revolutionizing the war-bot, preparing them for deployment against humans at some point, and their products are downright terrifying. Never the less, we still have not yet entered the era of autonomous killer robots being unleashed against human beings.

That said, oceanographic researchers are lauding the development of a new autonomous robot that will be released into the open sea and programmed to seek out and destroy species of invasive fish. The bots in question in this case are designed to hunt down lionfish, which have inadvertently been released into the Atlantic ocean and are causing significant harm to dozens of species of native fish and to coral reefs.

In a headline from Popular Mechanics magazine, the leap into a new age of automatic killing is phrased as an act of ‘saving’ something else, which in a way it is, however, the language being used foreshadows a soon coming day when autonomous bots will be released to ostensibly ‘save’ one group of human beings from another.

This Robot Will Hunt Lionfish to Save Coral Reefs.

Now, doesn’t that sound nice?

And throughout the press release for the project, the act of killing a lionfish is referred to as ‘harvesting’ the lionfish, which also sounds so nice, implying something kinder and gentler than ‘seek and destroy.’

Developed by graduate students and researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the new robot is designed to identify the target fish and kill it with a miniature robotic spear gun. It will glide along coral reefs scanning all of the fish it comes in contact with and use AI and machine learning to hopefully identify and neutralize only its target species.

“The goal is to be able to toss the robot over the side of a boat and have it go down to the reef, plot out a course, and begin its search,” said Putnam. “It needs to set up a search pattern and fly along the reef, and not run into it, while looking for the lionfish. The idea is that the robots could be part of the environmental solution.” [Source]

It’s like an artificially intelligent revolver looking around the sea shooting anything that matches its target profile, which is around 95% accurate, say researchers.