The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

This Is Going to Suck

Yeah. So. Robot army of the future:

Robots in battle, as envisioned by their builders, may look and move like humans or hummingbirds, tractors or tanks, cockroaches or crickets. With the development of nanotechnology they may become swarms of “smart dust.” The Pentagon intends for robots to haul munitions, gather intelligence, search buildings or blow them up.

“The lawyers tell me there are no prohibitions against robots making life-or-death decisions,” said Mr. Johnson, who leads robotics efforts at the Joint Forces Command research center in Suffolk, Va. “I have been asked what happens if the robot destroys a school bus rather than a tank parked nearby. We will not entrust a robot with that decision until we are confident they can make it.”

Let me just say, for the record, that I am so not excited about “swarms of ‘smart dust’ ” doing our bidding on the battlefield.

Robot soldiers in general, though: I’m actually torn. On one hand, fewer people in wars = good. On the other hand, robot soldiers. Also, it seems like it would be easy for government to carry on cruel wars of oppression with robot soldiers, you know?

February 17, 2005 / Uncategorized


You know, I don’t get all that worked up about robot soldiers, at least not in a “hey this would save so many lives by taking soldiers out of danger” way.

After all, humans or robots killing, it’s still people dying, and if all the soldiers are gone, there’s no one left but civilians. (Somehow, I don’t think that futures wars are going to be super-battlebots, with all the people just sitting on the sidelines.)

I read this incredible book called “The Unconquerable World” by Jonathan Schell over the holidays and it blew my mind so much that I kinda actually forgot about it until just now.

But you’re right: The logic of war is to pacify your opponent, to deprive him of his ability to fight. Which means, in practical terms, killing all of his fighters.

There’s really no way around that (unless any modern-day Clausewitzes want to weigh in and say I’m wrong).

So better/different soldiering technology isn’t gonna get us anywhere.

The whole gist of Schell’s book, by the way, is that there MIGHT be a chance for war to become obsolete — in part b/c of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which kinda’ mess with the logic as describe above. Because there’s suddenly no way to separate pacifying your enemy from, you know, obliterating his civilization.

So, Schell says, into this gap springs new modes of action: guerrilla or ‘people’s’ warfare, for one, and non-violent action for another.

He is, of course, a huge fan of non-violent action.

I should write more about this book some day; it was really, really broad and deep in its analysis & conclusions. And not flaky like you might expect a book about world peace to be.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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