Killer Robots from Outer Space

Helmet, Persian, Iran, 18th Century

We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology E.O. Wilson

For many years now Israel has been prosecuting a clandestine war against Iran, aimed at disrupting their nuclear program. Most of the acts that have come to light are in the form of assassinations of Iran’s top level nuclear scientists (a couple of dozen by now) that are engaged in the alleged development of an Iranian nuclear bomb. Early hit jobs used rather pedestrian methods to kill, like poison, but as the body count has risen Iran’s own defensive measures have necessitated ever more novel approaches, like the delivery of limpet mines onto car doors by passing motorcyclists. Today, the New York Times (pay wall) published an article that details the methods used last November to kill Mohsen Fakrizadeh, the father of Iran’s nuclear program and an Iranian Deputy Defense Minister, who exhibited “an insouciance bordering on fatalism”, with his insistence on driving himself. According to this piece, Israel had been gunning for him for years, with many failed attempts in the past.

With an approach that is reminiscent of the modus operandi employed in the 1997 action-thriller The Jackal, Israel’s Mossad settle upon using a remote-controlled machine gun as the murder weapon. Unlike in the movie the Mossad did not control their weapon from somewhere nearby, but a thousand miles away in Israel. The satellite datalink involved had a latency of 1.6 seconds, making hitting an individual driving a moving car, all the while overcoming the bucking of the machine gun seemingly impossible. The Mossad purportedly employed an undisclosed combination of artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology to overcome this latency problem, according to the article. Fakrizadeh was killed, but his wife sitting next to him in the front seat was unharmed. The Times article read like something out of James Bond.

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