From the Spear to the War-Bot: Are We Wired for War?

by Socrates on January 12, 2011

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I have always been interested in the study of war and the role of technology in armed conflicts.

In fact, it was while studying the modern connections between technology and war for my MA Thesis that I got interested into the singularity and its implications. Eventually, I finished my thesis titled Hacking Destiny: Critical Security At The Intersection Of Machine And Human Intelligence, an abbreviated version of which ended up as a 5-part series of blog articles titled Dawn of the Kill-Bots (see Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5).

In the above series I argued that despite the high media coverage of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan what we are (not) witnessing is the rise of armed military robots capable of killing humans. I went on to claim that within the history of the human species those conflicts may eventually turn out to be known as the dawn of the kill-bots – the period during which increasingly self-sufficient machines became capable of and started making increasingly autonomous decisions about killing human beings. Then I speculated that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan may turn out to be a lot more than merely a chapter in the War on Terrorism or a conflict between incompatible ideologies. What those conflicts could turn out to be is but the foreword of an altogether new type of war – the conflict between man and machine, mankind and robotkind…

I recently watched the 4-part Ground War Series by PBS:

Warrior Weapons which traces the evolution of soldiers and their gear.

Watch the full episode.

Firepower which tracks the development of artillery through the ages.

Watch the full episode.

Battlefield Mobility which explores mobility on the battlefield.

Watch the full episode.

Command and Control considers the ways armies have used the terrain of the battlefield.

Watch the full episode.

The above 4 videos are interesting, informative and worth watching because they provide great background of the historical development and, by now, classical theory of war. The problem is that, as I have argued in Dawn of the Kill-Bots, they do not really provide any insight into the future, or even the present, of warfare.

Warfare and military technology are at the forefront of the radical changes that are trickling in every facet of our civilization.  Thus, I would like to counterpose Peter W. Singer’s video presentation based on his book Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, where poses many of the questions that I grappled with during my MA (and still do), such as:

Does the future of warfare belong to robots and is that a good or a bad thing?

So, what do you think: Is it our machines, or is it us that is Wired for War?

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