Rise of the (Military) Robots
Matt Yglesias is worried that the military can't handle the coming of the drones:
The military [...] is an institutional culture that puts a great deal of stock on honor, courage, and difficult physical work. A service that consists of guys sitting in cubicles playing video games is going to have trouble holding its head high amidst a warrior ethos. And consequently, the Air Force is tending to resist the technological imperative to go more remote. Ultimately, however, that resistance is doomed and it’s not really clear what will come of it.
Isn't what will come of it the same thing that's come out of every confrontation between a proud culture of physical labor and the ineluctable logic of technological advancement? Eventually, the old traditions will give way, and we learn that the respect we have for certain occupations has a lot to do with who's in them and how much they're paid. That's how it's been in manufacturing, which was originally horrible work, then gained a mythology as unionization raised its wages and desirability, and has now collapsed as the low-wage jobs have left the country and the high-wage jobs have gone to computer users who don't think of themselves as blue-collar machinists.
Plus, the culture is preparing itself to accept this transition in the armed forces for some time: The military computer whiz is a consistent trope in films. He was in the most recent "Die Hard" and both "Transformers." He was in "War Games," "Tron," "Enemy of the State" and even the "Matrix." Jack Bauer would be nowhere without his computer support, and even the X-Men need Cerebro. The hero hacker is now a predictable partner of the hard-punching tough guy. Guys playing video games are increasingly being ushered into the warrior ethos, if only because it would be pretty embarrassing for the warriors if they couldn't count tomorrow's more effective guardians as members of their guild.
As for the traditional warriors, they should lie in wait: When the drones -- and, eventually, the robots -- turn on their human masters, the Marines of yesteryear will be all that stand between us and enslavement. They'll lose, of course, but it'll be good for their reputation.
Photo credit: AP/Eric Gay
Posted by: scaled-ape | August 27, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: thedavidmo | August 27, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BruceWebb | August 27, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.