4 Comments

  1. This sounds very much like the talk he gave at TED this year. I found the social implications of robotic warfighting and 9-5 soldiery of significant concern. In particular, the prevalence of stress-related issues with distance-remote pilots for these devices has potenital impacts as great or greater than the PTSD we see already in returned servicemen and women.

  2. Kate – thanks for a great post.

    Unfortunately all’s fair in love and war, simply because you have to believe your opponent (or lover) to be capable of anything. So it is sad fact that morality can never constrain the development and application of military technology, and it really is frightening to watch the emergence of a disconnected, unreal form of warfare, but I suppose that this is a trend as old as man.

    I would argue that military robotics don’t change the who of warfare at all – because the aim of any weapon is to kill humans. If a war is fought between machines, then all we have is a hugely expensive simulation of warfare and the warring nations would be better off playing this on a computer.

    It is impossible to capture a territory without occupation by infantry. You can bomb the hell out of a place from the air but you cannot actually hold it without occupation. In order to do this you have to suppress the enemy – not the enemy’s front line robots but his his last line of defence – his national guard and partisans (both human).

    All weapons kill people. To imply that any military technology will reduce deaths is dangerously misleading. The happy idea is that these machines can go out there and kill people we don’t know on our behalf. Not that acknowledging this would halt the development of automated or remote weapons systems, but I’d just prefer it if people would call a spade a spade.

    Guns don’t kill people; people kill people… but weapons manufacturers should admit that guns are specifically designed for the single purpose of killing people. That’s all I’m saying.

    So the widening of the gap between the killer and the dead continues from assault rifles to drones. It’s the same leap as from killing a man with a rapier to killing him with a tug on a trigger from a hundred metres away. The act of killing loses immediacy, dehumanising the target, which of course makes it easier to kill, because all soldiers require enemies that are less than human to them; if you sat and talked with your opponent for an hour or so, you’d probably have more qualms about destroying him.

    Humanity and ethics won’t curb the enhancement of our methods of destruction but perhaps honesty would curb our enthusiasm for the use of these kinds of toys. Hope springs eternal etc.

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