Peter Singer discusses robots and the future of war

September 29, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More

At this TED talk, Peter Singer explains how robots are increasingly replacing soldiers, but they are turning war into entertainment akin to video games, encouraging “war porn” videos, creating “cubicle warriors,” and painting us as cold-hearted aggressors to the rest of the world. And it’s about to get a lot worse, when armed autonomous systems come online. Singer argues that many ethics issues are lagging far behind the dangers of widely implementing these robot technologies. He also suggests that the problem is not in the machines themselves, but in the fact that we appear to be “wired for war.”


Category: Military, Technology, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Xtech says:

    Well the future is here, it is today

    U.S.-Born Qaeda Leader Killed in Yemen
    SANA, Yemen — In a significant and dramatic strike in the campaign against Al Qaeda, the Defense Ministry here said that American-born preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, a leading figure in the group’s outpost in Yemen, was killed on Friday morning. In Washington a senior official said Mr. Awlaki had been killed in an American attack by a drone aircraft firing a Hellfire missile.

    and it is yesterday

    Man Is Held in a Plan to Bomb Washington
    Published: September 28, 2011

    BOSTON — A 26-year-old man from a town west of Boston was charged Wednesday with plotting to blow up the Pentagon and the United States Capitol using remote-controlled aircraft filled with plastic explosives.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Steven Pinker offers a different take on warfare that is not face-to-face in a discussion with Sam Harris:

    I don’t think that the transition from face-to-face to remote-control styles of killing have led to an increase in deaths. In past centuries, men with swords, spears, daggers, bows and arrows, pikes, bayonets, and muskets could kill people by the millions, while today’s drones are targeted to take out enemies in the single digits—and when an errant drone in Afghanistan killed ten civilians (which would have been a rounding error in previous wars), it was an international incident that brought out profuse apologies. I argue in the book that weaponry is overrated as a driver of violence—human intentions are vastly more important. And while it’s true that people have an aversion to causing direct bodily harm to a stranger, this skittishness is easily set aside, or even inverted into a ferocious savagery, under a variety of circumstances, including vengeance, panic, and sadism.

  3. Xtech says:

    Just a quick reaction to the above (not had time to read the link): yuck. Sure it is a visceral reaction, almost literally visceral, it’s from the gut but I cannot help it and I put it out there honestly and without time to develop my post-hoc rationalizations 😉 .

    So here they are arguing with emotional detachment for a ‘cleaner’ kind of killing. I am recalling that Haidt video you posted the other day (from Edge) in which he mentioned the Asperger’s style of super systemized thinking, vs empathy style. I have been considering this about Harris (don’t know much at all about Pinker) wrt his contention in ‘The End of Faith’ that torture is acceptable if any kind of war is acceptable – they are both ways killing with the major difference being that torture is felt to be unesthetic. I sometimes wonder about these extreme rationalists such as Harris and their Aspie like tendencies.

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