Technology Redefines Civilians

An interesting article by Justin Elliot in ProPublica, Dissecting Obama’s Standard on Drone Strike Deaths, suggests that the administration is changing the definition of ‘civilian’ in ways that suit the use of lethal remote drone aircraft.  This is a notable piece because it suggests a downstream consequence of this new technology– our sensibility regarding civilian collateral damage can become threatened, and one approach is to redefine the occupants of a house so that, by definition, being at the target location makes one guilty.  This is a collision between the limitations of the robotic drone machinery, the tactical desires of the government and the realities of on-the-ground casualties.  Unfortunately, our changes to semantics have zero impact on how families on the ground feel – and that is where the real consequences of our actions can create downstream consequences.


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