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October 28, 2009

Finished Wired For War

Today I finished reading Wired For War : The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, by P.W. Singer. This was an excellent book that took me an uncharacteristically long time to read, because every few pages I felt filled up with the implications of what Singer is talking about and I'd need to set it down and let it percolate. 
Progress is accelerated during wartime, and the country has been at war for 8+ years in two countries, and so logically we should be seeing remarkable technological advances. We are, and mostly on two fronts: improved survival rates of combat injuries, and increased use of automation in the forms of aircraft (mostly in unmanned aerial vehicles {UAVs}) and surface robots.

There's going to be long-lasting social changes because of these wars, and I believe they're in stealth mode because to a large extent the war is not evident to civilians. Demographically, we're building a new generation of wartime veterans (which is a great result from a lousy process), and we're also generating a new generation of wounded vets.

There are remarkable advances being made in aviation, automation, navigation, robotics, telemetry, real-time systems, and weapon systems. Google's new Android operating system, for instance, is being used in the Raytheon Android Tactical System (RATS). Soldiers will be able to see each other's location in the "battlespace".

Just as rifles permitted a soldier to kill an enemy at a new range, today's gear allows a "pilot" in Nevada to kill an enemy in Afganistan. Singer does a great job of teasing out the moral implications of this technowar. For instance, is a contractor operating a Predator drone an illegal combatant? Does that justify an enemy's attack on a Nevada shopping center? When killing becomes a real-world video game, are we producing the same child warriors that we decry in Africa?

I highly recommend this book.

1 comments:

Frank Van Haste said...

V:

Thanks for the point-out. I'll read it. Meanwhile, re: "When killing becomes a real-world video game, are we producing the same child warriors that we decry in Africa?", let's go re-read "Ender's Game". Orson Scott Card got there some time ago.

Regards,

Frank

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