Who says that a country's heroes have to be human? North Korea has bucked the trend by recently awarding a lowly machine tool with some of the highest honors and titles it can bestow.
The authoritarian Communist country's official news service announced that "Lathe No. 26" had received the title "labor hero of the DPRK" (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and the "First Class of the Order of National Flag." That odd news item published on Oct. 4 was discovered and publicized in a Gawker post.
But the machine at the Pyongyang Textile Machine Factory achieved much to earn its top honors. It operated at full capacity over half a century, transformed into a computer numerical control (CNC) machine as part of a modernization drive, and was personally operated by former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
A quick trip to Wikipedia reveals that the "labor hero" honor was formerly the highest civilian award, while the "Order of National Flag" was the nation's highest order. But apparently the machine tool fell short of demonstrating its complete devotion to the North Korean Juche philosophy that might have earned it the ultimate honor — the Order of Kim Il-Sung (named for Kim Il-Sung, father of Kim Jong Il and grandfather of current-day leader Kim Jong-Un).
It's a safe bet that the U.S. won't follow suit by giving the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a 3D printer anytime soon. But don't rule out the odds for a robot to someday earn some serious medals on the battlefield – U.S. soldiers have already given their robots Purple Hearts for being "wounded" in battle, promotions and even a military funeral.
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