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I have asked why authoritative forces such as the police or the military would use robots and I have asked why said robots would be humanoid; now as I design the actually formations, I must know how many humans would be found per droid.

How many human soldiers could I expect to find for every humanoid combat droid, assuming that a droid costs fifty thousand dollars to make and five thousand a year to repair?

Keep in mind that 50 000 to make does not include the money spent researching and conceiving the design or the machinery required to build send robot

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Aify, Hohmannfan, Burki, MichaelK, Frostfyre Sep 19 '16 at 12:27

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ This seems like it would be entirely dependent on the society. How willing is the government/military to deploy drones vs. humans? How willing is the public? How much money does the military have to spend? How high of a priority are drones to the military? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Sep 19 '16 at 12:27
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If the profit of a robot is Xrobot and the cost Crobot, compared with a human with profit Xhuman and the cost (healthcare, training, and salary) Chuman. We can formulate a few scenarios.

It should also be noted that human’s lives can't be replaced and robots can be maintained indefinitely (while humans age and die), so even if all the variables are equal robots will have the edge.

I'll ignore your monetary figure as to leave this answer open to be used for other cases.

So, lets see:

  • Crobot ≈ Chuman, and Xrobot ≈ Xhuman. Robots will slowly replace humans, as the effort turns from recruitment to manufacture. The proportion of humans to robots will change from 0% robots to 99.999% robots – the particular proportion at a given time depends on how much time has passed since the technology for robots became mainstream and how quickly the replace humans. How quickly they replace humans depends on migration costs… basically: the more humans there are to begin with, the slower will be the conversion rate, but the conversion rate will accelerate as issues are solved and production grows.
  • Crobot ≈ Chuman, and Xrobot > Xhuman. If robots clearly perform better than humans by around the same cost, it will ease transition. The idea is the same as above, just faster.
  • Crobot ≈ Chuman, and Xrobot < Xhuman. If robots underperform, then they will have niche uses... I imagine they would be used for very risky situations. There would be a hard cap on the rate of humans and robots. My guess based on reality is a rate of approx. 1 robot per each 10000 officers.
  • Crobot > Chuman, and Xrobot ≈ Xhuman. If robots are expensive but they perform nearly as equal to a human, there is not enough incentive to deploy robots. Those that exist are only test-types. I would expect less than 100 robots in operation, mainly in pilot programs (I mean, early field tests).

  • Crobot > Chuman, and Xrobot > Xhuman. Since robots are expensive but also outperform humans, the strategy depends on which factor is more relevant. If robots cost twice as much as humans but perform only one and a half times better, then having twice as humans is better… but the supply of humans is limited, so you get as many humans as you can and then robots. On the other hand if robots cost one and a half times what humans cost but perform twice as good, you want to start migration to reach a point when you have as many robots as you can and then a few humans to fill any niche positions.

  • Crobot > Chuman, and Xrobot < Xhuman. Robots are trash; they are too expensive and perform badly. You may have a few prototypes in development, perhaps not more than 10, to develop the technology until they become better or cheaper.
  • Crobot < Chuman, and Xrobot ≈ Xhuman. Robots are cheap and about as good as a human, you back up your migration strategy with a good human rights speech and you have your robot military forces. The bottle neck is production. The rate of robots to humans will rapidly move from 0% robots to 99.999% robots.
  • Crobot < Chuman, and Xrobot > Xhuman. In this case robots are cheap and perform better than humans! Similar to the case above, you will migrate as fast a politics and production allows you.
  • Crobot < Chuman, and Xrobot < Xhuman. If robots are cheap but underperform, they are cannon meat. You produce them mainly to have numbers. I would expect the rate to be at least 1:1 with humans, up to 3 or 4 robots per human.

Of course, it is expected that robots become cheaper as time passes, and also that they become better. So, we could imagine them going by a few of the stages above:

  1. Prototypes. About 10 robots in research and development.
  2. They start to perform better, and pass to a pilot problem with around 100 robots in operation.
  3. A new cheaper model is developed. This one performs worst but it is safe to use in the field. 1 robot for each 10000 officers.
  4. Robots continue to become cheaper. 1 robot for each officer.
  5. New models outperform humans. 1 human per 10000 robots.

Note: do not consider this to be linear time. While the development may be exponential, the production of new units is not. Since the production is the bottle neck, interpreting the list above to be logarithmic is the best approach.


How fast does it happens depends on the size of the military forces and the production of new units. Politic cycles may also delay the start of the migration project. Decide this things for your fictional work.

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  • $\begingroup$ I do appreciate your generalization as it makes this question more helpful to worldbuilders that use slightly different mechanics in their world +1 $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Sep 19 '16 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ @UncleTres I don't really know the economics of your fictional world. I have a feeling that is some alternative history USA, but I don't think I should assume that. So, is 50 000 expensive or cheap? Also, for me a very important factor is how much time has it been since military robot technology has become reliable, that is because I expect the ratio to change. But you should know these things, so an open answer makes sense for me. $\endgroup$ – Theraot Sep 19 '16 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly, the varying possibility allow flexibility. But you are correct, this is an alternate history and the dollar is more valuable, but not by much $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Sep 19 '16 at 8:16
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At only $50k they'd replace most of the army, ignoring the cost of training the troops you're looking at a cost in the region of two year's pay and you don't have to pay the droids.

US equipment spend in Afghanistan for 2009 is equivalent to nearly £463,000 for each of its 61,950 soldiers. For Britain's 9,000 troops in Helmand the Afghan-specific equipment spend equates to just £288,889 per head. For Canadian troops currently fighting in Kandahar province, the spend is equivalent to £507,539 per soldier. Only the Germans' 4,000 troops in the more peaceful north of Afghanistan come in lower than the UK, at around £152,000 per head. Guardian

and that's just the equipment.

Nor do you have to feed and house them, you don't need complex medical facilities, there are no families back home to house on bases or pay pensions to.

As soon as these things become combat viable, at that price, there'd barely be a pair of human boots on the ground below special forces. What you're missing is that these wouldn't be 50k, they'd be 500k to 1500k at best and still be considered a bargain.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for saying what I failed to... Nice find on the Guardian article. $\endgroup$ – Snow Sep 19 '16 at 8:35
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50K (dollars, I guess?) seems pretty cheap, certainly a lot cheaper than training and maintaining human soldiers (and those soldiers are only active for a few years and can't be repaired as easily as a drone).

Back in 2006, it was costing an estimated £2million to train special forces soldiers - Cost to train special forces soldiers

For that price, you may as well have a drone army and only have one or two humans per platoon, that'll be a good way of saving money on those expensive meatsacks.

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  • $\begingroup$ Pete keep in mind that when I say building a drone, I mean in the same way that cars, for example, are made $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Sep 19 '16 at 7:06
  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm. Have you looked into how expensive military hardware is? Cars are cheap to make because nothing much changes about them year-on-year so the cost of retooling for new models is relatively low. Having said that, most of the military gear these days is produced by private companies. If your drones are created by the state, then the cost would be lower (but R&D costs would be huge). Nevertheless, it's still a lot cheaper than running human soldiers. $\endgroup$ – Snow Sep 19 '16 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ that is True, hence the question $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Sep 19 '16 at 7:22
  • $\begingroup$ Special forces soldiers are the exception rather than the norm. A common GI is far cheaper to train and still make the bulk of most regular armies. Whether robots will first replace the less complex GIs or the more expensive special forces would depend on what military tasks the robots can and can't perform. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Sep 19 '16 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ Of course. I saw a few mentions of the cost of training, but obviously it's hard to cite hard and fast figures for the appropriate level (Marine, I guess) as I couldn't find anything through searching. The point I'm making is that these drones are far cheaper than humans are, especially when humans have a very limited (in comparison) active service life. $\endgroup$ – Snow Sep 19 '16 at 8:30

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