For science fiction writers and want-to-be science fiction writers, like myself, technology is overtaking our imaginations. Last Wednesday, the issue of drones and robotic warfare was raised and discussed, on ABC’s Lateline programme. I’ve posted on this issue twice before, over a year ago, in Jan. 2011 and Nov. 2010, but it’s more advanced than I thought.
Unmanned ‘predator’ aircraft are becoming the weapon of choice for war strategists in the US and we can expect other countries to follow. The ability to target and kill your enemy remotely (from the other side of the world) is becoming too seductive to resist. People are already talking about giving robots decision-making abilities to engage the enemy.
In the short term it will lead to a bigger gulf between techno-savvy (therefore wealthy) countries and poorer nations – absolutely guaranteed to boost anti-Western paranoia. In the long term it may lead to warfare between drones or attempts to conduct war in space to eliminate satellites that unmanned aircraft depend on for navigation.
Ballistic and cruise missiles were developed in the cold war because they allowed one to attack a country without setting foot in it. Drone aircraft allow the exact same scenario, which is why they are so popular with politicians and military strategists. The psychological and ethical consequences are being glossed over, but is bombing by stealth with no visible or targetable combatant any less a terrorist act than suicide bombing? I guess it depends which side you’re on.
History reveals that when one opponent has a technological advantage over their adversary, then the adversary adopts strategies that are considered unprincipled by their superior opponent.