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Wednesday, February 4, 2009
ReBoot: Session 1 cont'd - Jill Sobule & Peter W. Singer
Peter W. Singer, author of Wired for War, talked about war and the way we use robots now. His opening story was about the tragic loss of a soldier, a hero in his platoon and the apology letter to send home. This heroic figure didn’t catch the roadside bomb until he was on it, but he saved his colleagues. The apology letter was sent to a company called iRobot for their 42 pound savior.
• the future of war, even robotics, isn’t purely American. There isn’t a permanent first move or advantage. We’re ahead, but others might execute it better so we can’t rest on our laurels.
• Just as software is open source, so is warfare. Good guys, bad guys, soldiers and citizens can do this. We don’t want Al Queda 2.0
• People are more likely to support the use of force if they don’t see it as costly because we don’t have to lose soldiers. We can watch destruction and cheer it on with a soundtrack on youtube: soldiers call it “war porn”.
• The ability to watch more and experience less costs us our humanity.
• “The unmanning of war plays to our strength” – senior Bush administration official
• Soldier who “fought” while never leaving Nevada: “You can kill people for 12 hours and then go home and talk to your kids about their homework.” The interesting thing? Soldiers like him have higher rates of PTSD than other soldiers.
• Mooers' law is in operation in war now. So is Murphy’s law. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes deadly. But it's moving very quickly.
• The next thought is re-programming people who survive war. Can we “fix” someone’s memory so they don’t suffer from the memories of PTSD and does that take away their humanity to wipe out their ability to recall? [I don't know how much he goes into that aspect in his book as his talk was more on the tech than the biotech but I've been obsessed about the ethics of beta-blockers for treatment of PTSD ever since I heard of propanolol. It's seductive.]
“Is it our machines or is it us that is wired for war?” –P. W. Singer
Read more about P. W. Singer on his TED bio page (....when it's up) or on his website.