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Robot Wars - Crank Up the Carnage

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We have a solution for war. It is to expand the sphere of liberty. 
Rudolph Rummel

Robot Wars - Crank Up the Carnage

Tech at its best
War for the kids

Just the sound of the words - Robot Wars - summons a futuristic vision of carnage. Could this be the prospective for things to come in combat? Or are we just looking at the next evolution in techniques used to satisfy the natural appetites in human nature? Have the scientists and the techie’s gone mad or are they on the cutting edge of invention that offers the fulfillment of the ambition for the universal soldier?

Well, maybe . . . but for now, the masters of mayhem are confined to the sport of entertainment that puts fantasy football to shame.

ROBOT WARS was the first to create the battling robot craze in California in the early 1990's, premiered on British television four years ago, and is now a hit series in over 40 countries, including Britain, Sweden, Italy, China and Holland.

Each program will contain different challenges and events, watch out for episodes titled "Tag Team Terror", "The Annihilator", "House Robot Rebellion" and "The Extreme Warriors U.S. Championship". Robot Wars is a truly global phenomenon - robotic combat events - that awaken basic instincts.

The rules to play this game ban all pyrotechnics weapons - no explosives, flames, corrosives, liquids or electronic devices (sorry no radio jamming, heat-guns or Tesla coils). Just plain old fashion engineering that uses electric, IC engines, hydraulic and pneumatic systems all controlled by radio. Maybe Q from MI-6 or “Wizards of Langley” boys might regard this all kids stuff, but the public eats it up.

 All the action of flame-throwers, circular saws, and pick-axes.... 'Robot Wars' is aired on TechTV. The might of the robots is limited only by the imagination and finances of their creators. It's a tournament like no other, as robots have to balance brute strength, weight, and lightning-quick reactions, or they might find themselves flipped from the frenzy straight to the scrap yard.

A battlefield for the ages
Cheers from the masses

Fighting in an arena among roboteers using tactics and strategy to avoid the grinder, the flame field and that infamous pit, puts the physical spin and meaning in “Heavy Metal”. While your opponent or rivals may present the immediate threat, evading the corner zones is crucial if you want to stay out of harms way from the real brutes - the House Robots. Shunt and Matilda look tame to Sir Killalot or the new beasts Mr Psycho and Growler. Their size and power are not restricted by mere rules. As in most encounters, the house never has to play on that same level playing field.

Razer, Tornado, Firestorm, Bigger Brother and Dominator 2 are the class of the contestants. Even that deadly flywheel of Hypno-disc or the dual cutting discs of 13 Black can’t stand up to the persistent pushers, the powerful flippers, that lethal axe or the most fatal weapon or all - the hydraulic crusher. Being counted out is the easy way to lose the battle. The most unfortunate are mangled and mutilated beyond repair. Getting tossed over the side wall can be the most gracious way to exit the coliseum. Are you getting the picture so far?

“Let the Wars Begin” is shouted out by the master of mayhem. Your host Craig Charles is more than a fan, he is enthusiast that stokes up the audience to a fever pitch that would vie with any plebeian in a Roman hippodrome. The key to grasp the appeal of Robot Wars is not found in the geeks or nerds mindset, but in the general audience. The thrill of watching destruction of machines is not simple enjoyment, it is an inbred hunger. The eagerness to experience the devastation is the ubiquitous, while the gadgets are merely the instrument.

If you think this marvel is confined to the peculiarities of the Brits, you would be dead wrong. Fascination with warfare is not restrained to toys, but is romanticized in the real deal. When the Derek Foxwell, a developer of many of the technical ideas says about Robot Wars: “I think that it's an aid to education because it's getting kids interested in engineering sciences, mathematics, electronics, and it gives them fun, so that it's fun learning. I think that encouraging people to go into the sciences and engineering it's the best thing that's ever happened”, he misses the subconscious nature of the fun that mankind enjoys the spectacle of real carnage, especially if it applies to others.

The shows executive producer, Steve Carsey, looks at the program this way: “ I think it says three things to viewers, particularly younger viewers: a) science, technology and engineering can be cool, can be entertaining; b) there is a lot of team work involved and I have the utmost admiration for anyone who goes through the process of building one of these machines; c) whether competitors win or not, the fact is that they've had a go and achieved something. It's the taking part that counts.”

Nice spin, but the truth is that entertainment has gone futuristic with no bounds. Primitive wants are often seen as a essential needs. As long as natural aggression is confined to innocent amusement, pleasure is honest. But when satisfaction is realized from agony, even by estranged adversaries in foreign lands and bizarre cultures, it impairs our own humanity.

Are we teaching the youth to take delight in the carnage or in the science? However, the more salient question is whether that salutary science is a friend or foe, or maybe a little of both? That sacred progress can often bring the gore to war, towards even more advanced levels of efficiency. We all would benefit if real world conflicts were confined to the innocuous robots in a playground arena, but that likelihood is more remote than the inclusion of laser beam weapons to the next generation of gladiator robots.

Recreation can be good fun, if it recognizes that enjoyment in a fictitious battle, is quite different than welcoming engagements in factious warfare. Psyching up people to relish bloodshed is the continuous production of the procurers of conflict. Robot Wars is an overwhelming hit because it taps into the innate urge to witness wreckage of the machine. Notwithstanding; that same impulse has not evolved into accepting that the inherent drive to champion combat, notably with tech sophistication, is a disaster and certainly not elegant. The skill and inventiveness of the roboteers is captivating. The ingenuity of the robot designs and fabrication is fascinating. However, the appeal to primordial instincts has an irresistible seduction that few can withstand. That’s why the face of Dead Metal, that fast, deadly and by far the ugliest of the house robots with a grungy, corroded, rusty look, is looking at you. When the sparks fly, robots usually die! So do live people.

SARTRE - July 6, 2003

No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.
Thomas Jefferson

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