Robot Telepresence Schizophrenia

Mark Mazzetti’s short article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine this past weekend, The Drone Zone, describes a training center in New Mexico where Air Force graduates learn to fly drones such as the Predator and begin their career as pilots who never quite leave the ground.  The article is fascinating because of its disparities. One Air Force instructor there says that flying drones is “the perfect blend of mission and family” because you go to war without every having to go to war, while another Drone pilot reports that, in a single day, he can fly a combat mission over Afghanistan, stop and have a lunch break, then fly a mission over Iraq, then get in his civilian car and drive home in time for dinner. Paradise or hell? This particular pilot calls the experience disorienting and schizophrenic.  We are entering an age when technology unleashes new relationships between humans and robots far faster than ethicists and philosophers can possibly digest their ramifications.  Just as humans are diverse in their job ethos and sports interests, so it is likely that some will find these telepresence systems heavenly while others will find the very same systems to be disastrous.  Welcome to a technology-balkanized future.

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