The messy underbelly of ‘risk-free’ robot strikes

In today’s New York Times Drone Policy article, Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane describe the logistically imprecise unforeseen consequences of moving from a physical army to remote-control, semi-autonomous ‘bots that strike from above, short-circuiting the old chain of command. Where to begin? There are the policy gaps that drones introduce between the U.S. and her allies; then there is the apparent inequity, and how the residents of target countries view this extreme lack of parity; next we have the fact that robots are reproducible: we have the CIA program, the DoD program, and the lines of influence, authority and justification splay into spaghetti because the old rules of engagement, approval and oversight disappear when accountability becomes ill-defined. Boundary-crossing technology, in this particular case, shatters old structures of accountability and leaves several corners of government scratching their collective heads. Now imagine a further future, when small infantry forces can be just as robotic as the drones of today. The robots only become more capable every year. Will our incapability to assimilate this new technology into lethal decision-making ever catch up, or will the technology outstrip our human powers of compensation?

 

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