December 03, 2007
I See Why William Gibson Gave Up Writing About the Future

flying a helicopter at night, blind

According to the residents of Datta Khel, a town in Pakistan's North Waziristan, three missiles streaked out of Afghanistan's Pakitka Province and slammed into a Madrassa, or Islamic school, this past June. When the smoke cleared, the Asia Times reported, 30 people were dead.

The killers were robots, General Atomics MQ-1 Predators. The AGM-114 Hellfire missiles they used in the attack were directed from a base deep in the southern Nevada desert.

-- Conn Hallinan, “U.S. Secret Air War Pulverizes Afghanistan and Iraq

War by robot proxy: America is building a world in which its citizens won't ever actually have to go to battle. Policies and associated technologies are engineered to prevent Americans from experiencing war firsthand. Though journalists once acted as civilian proxies, something changed with the war in Vietnam, when the military began to view domestic opposition to war as a kind of enemy at home, and so through exclusion, intimidation, and fastidious embedding, has successfully kept them far from the realities of the field.

-- Chris Csikszentmihályi, “Automatic Rumor

The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots. Thank you.

-- Military school Commandant's graduation address, “The Secret War of Lisa Simpson

He stated that he heard the pilot say that PPO-1 had locked up. He then noticed that the chart display on his monitor had locked up. The technician stated that he walked up to the front of the GCS and looked at the status-warning screen on PPO-2, which indicated that PPO-1 was locked up. He advised the pilot that they needed to switch control to PPO-2. He then went back to the MFW to open up another program, which showed him what processes were running on PPO-1 so that he could record this information. The technician then returned to the front of the GCS, at which time the pilot was using his cell phone to call for support. He advised the pilot again that they needed to switch control from PPO-1 to PPO-2. The technician stated that the pilot switched control to PPO-2 and that the pilot then stated that PPO-2 was also locked up.

-- NTSB report on the Border Patrol Predator crash in Arizona

UAVs can peek much more easily and cheaply than satellites and fixed cameras can. Although it is possible to peer into someone's back garden with Google Earth, the images are not “live”—some are years old. Live satellite images can be impaired by clouds and darkness. A UAV, however, is more flexible. It can get closer to its target, move to new locations faster and hover almost silently above a property or outside a window. And the tiny ones that are coming will be able to fly inside buildings. Before long paparazzi will put cameras in them to snatch pictures of celebrities.

-- The Economist, “The fly's a spy

Three people at the D.C. event independently described a row of spheres, the size of small berries, attached along the tails of the big dragonflies -- an accoutrement that Louton could not explain. And all reported seeing at least three maneuvering in unison.

“Dragonflies never fly in a pack,” he said.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice said her group is investigating witness reports and has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with several federal agencies. If such devices are being used to spy on political activists, she said, “it would be a significant violation of people's civil rights.”

-- The Washington Post, “Dragonfly or Insect Spy?

Posted by jjwiseman at December 03, 2007 01:08 AM

Even if we're not shedding real blood with robotic drones, I hope we never forget the other guy's blood is real and use this technology humanely (or at least as humanely as possible during war).

Posted by: Paul Hoehne on December 3, 2007 10:48 AM

If I'm on the winning side, I don't care what happens to the other guy's blood.

Posted by: All War is Humane on December 3, 2007 11:20 AM

" The future is already here ~ it just isn't widely distributed yet " ( Gibson )

Posted by: on December 3, 2007 12:19 PM

Maud Dib had first hand experience of this with the assasin remote in his room. Just don't move or cry out for help...

Posted by: Justin Grant on December 4, 2007 12:28 AM

If we can replace human troops with machines, they maybe we can replace politicians with machines as well.

Posted by: on December 6, 2007 07:06 PM

So, you think the reason is Gibson's realisation of his own inability to paint the future in a sufficiently scary manner?

Posted by: Samium Gromoff on December 9, 2007 01:25 PM

No, the reason is because the future is already here. That was already covered. I never got the impression Gibson was trying to scare me with the future, just open me up to the change it will bring, and how that change is really just more of the same, unless you think being human is a unique form of existence. But that's crazy.

Posted by: on December 10, 2007 12:30 PM
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