The State will have become technocratic – fascism by remote control – the dream of control, coveted by evil men for generations, will have come to fruition. We have a scant few years to arrest the development of these technologies or to rearchitect the social foundations of liberty to survive a situation where combat robots leave the population largely powerless to resist tyranny, whether they have their rifles or not. To develop the technology to defeat the rifle utterly in the field is roughly equivalent to absolute, final, global disarmament of the population.
I am not suggesting that these combat robots will have human intelligence. I am not suggesting they will be effective policemen in the crime solving sense. They will start as remote controlled weapons platforms, then evolve common sense on navigation, then target selection, then tactics and strategy. What can be automated successfully will be automated, and the rest will be left to men in bunkers viewing screens where blood is rendered in black or blue, not red, and the faces of the fallen are fuzzed out as distractions from the real work of identifying and terminating enemies among the living.
So what do we do about this future of oppression at the hands of robots developed to defeat the improvised weapons of freedom fighters, revolutionaries and insurgents everywhere? What do we do about a future where little guy finally has no chance at all against the State, should the state turn against him and seek to drive him to the wall? What indeed can we do about that situation?
I want you to get serious about putting aside your political differences about the economy, and to get serious, left and right, about making sure that our children don’t grow up in a world where men they will never see or vote for control the box on the corner that tortures you with an invisible ray any time you get out of line.
I will note that the development of a remote mass torture device contravenes all human and natural law, and the insistence that it will “save lives” is based on a simple misunderstanding: if the people are taking to the streets and screaming for change, and you torture them where they stand to make them stop asking for change, eventually they will turn to real violence and kill the hand that tortures them to make them comply, if they can. And if they cannot kill that hand, what has been created is a hell: a torture state which one cannot overthrow or escape from. What hand will wield these torture machines in a few generations?
Lines are being crossed here. Technologies which stand every chance of enslaving us all are being developed to win the Iraq war, because the Iraq war is typically of armed resistance to government anywhere. It is disorganized, angry men with rifles and bombs dying for what they believe in, however misguided. If the ability to defeat such groups is developed and placed into the hands of the current incumbent governments and power groups, the same processes that gave rise to a free revolutionary America will no longer operate, and there will be no more stands to be made against the Empire. Those who stand will be ceaselessly and cheaply cut down by replaceable robot warriors manufactured far from the fray, operated from bunkers, and deployed far away from TV cameras. There will be little or no home front pressure to stop unjust and unnecessary wars because only the blood of the enemy will be shed in armed conflicts. The human cost of war will be borne entirely by the underdog, and therefore the underdogs will have lost their primary means of making the incumbent power groups change course. And, let me tell you, we are all potentially that underdog.
But note that current drone crews do suffer from PTSD, they are far from being dehumanized. Drones may also change how the battlefield terrain is shaped through construction.
But you’re in luck, all you thin healthy smiley bastards: I don’t think it’ll happen like that. It’s going to be weirder, slower, and a lot less Star-Wars-ey than people think.
It’s easy to get all excited about blasters, space battles, lasers and all that Luke Skywalker stuff. But my job is to give you my best guess on what’s really gonna happen. And you know, I’m not even sure war will survive. War seems too good for people like you: you beach volleyball people. You’ve made getting healthy and thin a religion, so why would you want war? Well, one thing: it won’t be the cool sci-fi war you like to think about, you saving Carrie Fisher from Jabba with your Jedi mind crap….
Spacewar — Killer satellites, orbital lasers…won’t happen. Nothing but lame NASA fundraising ideas, cooked up by corrupt lobbyists and corporations that make a living off the federal budget. Never convinced anybody this side of Newsweek. 150 years from now there’ll be nobody on the moon, nobody on Mars — just some fragile, expensive tools floating up there, not worth blasting, far too expensive to risk.
By now we can keep a Predator RPV hovering week after week, waiting for a target. When they finally persuaded the USAF to give the Predator RPVs a chance in Afghanistan, they had to admit the damn things worked even better than their advocates were promising. They’re amazing: too small to spot, damned hard to shoot down, and cheap enough that we don’t lose much even if it does get hit. And you know the best thing about RPVs? They don’t react to torture. No pilot to go on Iraqi TV looking like Jake LaMotta after twelve rounds with Sugar Ray Robinson and start apologizing for disturbing Baghdaders’ beauty sleep.
The trouble with this nice clean automated-war scenario is that nobody wants to play with us. The US can play that game, but who else can? The Israelis? They’re the only real combat-tested RPV-using army. And if it came to a US vs. Israel war, let’s face it: the US Congress would back Israel all the way, and the US’d have to surrender before a shot was fired.
Try plugging the hi-tech, RPV-heavy war plan to a more even-sided war: say, an all-out struggle for world domination between the US and China ten years from now. The first thing you realize is that it’ll come down to production rates. You’re gonna lose a lot of hardware in a hurry. Like aircraft in the early days of WW I, RPVs will go from surveillance to attack, and that will lead to interceptor models designed to destroy enemy RPVs. There’ll be unmanned dogfights, and since these things are easy to make, the dogfights will be unbelievably massive, maybe hundreds of thousands of individual combats in the sky over the battlefield. It comes down to our factories vs. theirs. If you can replace it faster than they do, maybe you win. It’ll all be as harmless as a nerd picnic on the school field Saturday afternoon, with the Asian kids and the pasty white kids each piloting their little remote-controlled MiG’s and F-16s and arguing about who killed who, then going off for pizza.
As the two-tier war system develops, the hi-tech nations won’t even associate war with death any more. War will be a demolition derby: our machines beat your machines. Nobody has to die. When the dogfight between a Chinese and an American RPV finishes, nobody will die; the US controller will disconnect from his monitor and have a beer, and so will the Chinese.
Production dominance will tilt one way or the other, at last: you own the skies. They can’t send up any more RPVs, and you can. OK; you’ve won. Now what? Do you start carpet bombing their cities? What the Hell for? The civilian population won’t even matter any more. Kill a hundred million Chinese — so what?
because an ICBM isn’t the only way to deliver a nuke.
I mean, just think for a minute. You’re Mao. You hate the US, you have a few big ripe homemade nukes, and you want to be sure the Americans know they can’t push you too far. Do you build ICBMs? Sure, a few — enough to keep the Japanese and the Russians awake. But you don’t really trust those homemade missiles. And — this is kinda the key point, so lissen up here — you don’t need to. Because a regime like Mao’s (or Stalin’s or Kim Il Sung’s) does one thing really, really well: spy stuff.
And if you’ve got a good spy service, delivering nukes is a cinch. A pickup truck is a perfectly effective way to deliver a nuke. How many pickup trucks cross from Canada or Mexico every year? Every day? You think every one of those gets searched? How many ships call at US ports every year? How many get really carefully searched? How hard is it to carry a nuke to an American harbor in a harmless-looking Liberian-registered cargo ship, then dump it over the side somewhere near the East River, or the Bay Bridge?
Why bother killing a few million civilians? Won’t settle anything. Just makes you look bad. In fact, nothing seems to be on the line anymore — not people’s lives, not even their jobs, no matter how much they fuck up.
The only enjoyable wars will be the mismatches, when the machine armies are unleashed on the savages. We’ve seen some of them lately: the NATO air forces working out on Serbia, the US and British planes playing with the Iraqis like a couple of kittens with a half-dead mouse. They’re the wars people will enjoy, because the targets are so easy, so undefended, that there are lots of good gun-camera shots.
But these wars have a little weakness: they never solve the problem. NATO killed a few thousand Serbs too stupid to realize their fellow Christians didn’t give a fuck about them. And the Serbs pulled back. But the Albanians moved in. You go into a slum like the Balkans, try to fix things up by slapping around one gang — and the gang next door comes in, kills their families and takes their houses. It’s embarrassing. From what I hear, a lot of NATO soldiers dream non-stop of the day they’ll be allowed to fire on the Albanian thugs they’re supposed to be protecting.
The answer is obvious: annihilation. The two-tier wars will get really annoying. How many times do you go in (and “you” could be the Chinese, the Indians, or whoever’s running the show 100 years from now) and separate these drunken smalltime thugs? Sooner or later somebody will suggest the neutron-bomb option. Nothing dramatic, just a Raid commercial on a larger scale.
They’ll be provoked. That’s a sure thing — before the ruling countries take the annihilation option, they will be HELL OF provoked. The lower tier will have one weapon: the willingness to die and to kill. You don’t need hi-tech to kill a lot of people. You think Mohammed Atta could pass a course on jet engineering? Physics? He couldn’t’ve got into Solano Community College, and all you need to pass there is two-thirds attendance. The loser countries, the ones who can’t do math, are gonna skip shop class, skip the machine crap, and go back to basics: kill a lot of people. They’ll do Columbine on a worldwide scale. All the losers will come to the lobby with guns. Serbs, North Koreans, Tamil Sri Lankans, will walk into the lobbies of the machine peoples’ towers like Keanu in The Matrix. They will splatter those security guards, they will smash up the decorative marble, they will disrupt office routine with drums of gasoline and vials of pesticide and rerouted sewage floods; they will turn the cities against their citizens and kill, kill, kill.
And the upper tier will respond. They’ll be patient. They’ll endure the first twenty or so urban massacres in a civilized way. Then they’ll think of the obvious: the Raid solution. Every pesticide commercial they ever saw will occur to them as they decide what to do with the Haitians, the Tamils…and finally somoeone in a government office in Beijing or Washington or Delhi will decide to do something permanent about the vermin. Ah yes, the Balkans: nice country. Too bad it’s infested with two-legged varmints. Why not clean ‘em out? It’ll strike somebody as a good idea, sooner or later. And that’s how we’ll have our first nuclear war: not the old Cold-War scenario where two nuclear-armed nations wipe each other out, but a perfectly logical one-sided version: China, or India, or us, or whoever, will simply sterilize the Balkans. (Or Java, or the South Bronx).
So key questions right now are:
- What countermeasures can be deployed versus drones? (Electronic warfare, jamming, masers, drone leader targeting ect…)
- If the focus is exclusively on electronic elements, what about other spheres that are under-utilized?
- Will the Nation-State exist in it’s current form, despite the crisis of legitimacy and economic disincentives?
- Will the economy of scale favor large or small operational groups?
- Will the production of drones favor mass drone warfare, or a mix of quality and quantity?
- How will production facilities balance quality and quantity?
- What is the size of the organization best suited for mass production, refinement and deployment of drones when factoring in automation?
- What vulnerabilities exist in the all important supply chain?