Thursday, February 09, 2006

Is the remote war something we should be wanting?

Lets talk about the Predator for a moment. Here is a jet that is completely controlled by remote and now carries munitions. The way we deploy the Predator now is usually with a pilot and munitions officer stationed here in the US. These people go to work each day and as soon as the walk in the office they are "at war". Though, these folks are really at no risk of dying in this war and (some would argue) won’t make the same decisions that a person on the ground in theater would make. Essentially, the Predator is a more deadly weapon because of the fact that it can (and does) kill with no consequence. The same can be said for our smart bombs. These are launched/dropped from planes that are far from danger and by pilots who are not connected to the target in any tactile way. Both of these weapons are incredibly effective because they don’t have a human conscience on the scene who is connected to their detonation. A target is chosen and it is destroyed man. There are no second thoughts because the person/people pulling the trigger are far from the battlefront.

In the future, one can see technology enabling us to wage total war without our soldiers being anywhere near the battlefield. Surely one can see Predators morphing into fighter jets, automated tanks and perhaps small robot like soldiers, all controlled remotely. What kind of war would that be? Some would say it would be wonderful since nobody would die from it. Well, of course that is if you aren't on the other side. I would argue that this kind of disconnected war is akin to terrorism. There is no conscience on the battlefield, it would be methodical killing. Shots all being called by some generals far, far away. Can you imagine that? Imagine seeing a fucking line of robots heading your way like clones from Star Wars, no way to say "hey man, don't shoot! I'm a civilian!", no conscience on the battlefield to make human decisions. No sacrifice, just super-efficient killing on a mass scale.

Now look at the struggle against America fought by the radical Islamists. Their most effective weapon is a person strapped from head to toe with explosives. Essentially since the person is completely willing to die, this weapon is deployed in quite the same way as the Predator and our smart bombs. It is a weapon that works with no consequence at all other than killing everything within 100 yards of it. It is controlled "remotely" by some leader in some bunker far far away. How are we any different than terrorists?

Essentially what I'm getting at here is that as we become more technologically advanced, we're becoming more and more disconnected from what war is really all about: Willing to die for what you believe. We are moving more towards killing with no conscience just to beat an enemy into submission. I'm anti-war in a lot of ways (not all), but I think if we as a people don’t start thinking about these issues, we run the danger of war disappearing... and being replaced by state sponsored killing campains.

2 comments:

Blake Rubin said...

interesting post on a couple of different levels. First off I work in a University lab that is developing autonomous robots using funds from the DoD, our robots are being developed under the guise of medic-bot (robots to assist medics and first responders), but its clear that you could strap bombs to any of these things that we build that can fly autonomously (no pilot, not even someone controlling it remotely) in near earth environments (ie city streets, buildings and caves, since predator is limited to flying at very high altitudes). Ultimately I view this type of research akin to that of the atomic bomb, where its end goal is to develop such weapons as to prevent war in the first place and also to spin off technologies that will improve peoples lives (though I'm not sure how well the autonomous vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers are working out, I'm confident something positive will come out of this).

trace said...

Well, sure but remember that the Manhattan Project in additoin to giving us lots of nice spin-off technology did create the bomb and having the bomb in our lives really has made things worse overall.. WE'll have to see