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Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century

2 Ratings: 3.5
A book by P. W. Singer

A military expert reveals how science fiction is fast becoming reality on the battlefield, changing not just how wars are fought, but also the politics, economics, laws, and ethics that surround war itself.    Table of Contents:   … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Nonfiction, War, Robotics, Military Forecasting, P W Singer, see all
Author: P. W. Singer
Publisher: Penguin Press HC
Date Published: January 22, 2009
1 review about Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and...

A truly eye-opening book, superbly researched and written

  • May 1, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+4
I first heard the author talking on NPR about this topic, and both that interview and the first chapter of this book show his excitement and deep interest and understanding of this subject. For such a weighty hardback, it's remarkably hard to put down, and each section evolves intelligently from the last. I particularly enjoyed the references to modern culture, given that robotics has largely been a subject of science fiction in the last few decades rather than yielding anything practical in reality. 

Well, at least so I thought - it turns out that over 12,000 robots are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan as we speak. The companies producing these machines were spurred by the very real necessities of dealing with guerrilla warfare, and avoiding the human toll associated with such difficult environments. Through a combination of human-controlled and artificially-intelligent hardware, these robots back up our soldiers and provide a super-human level of robustness and accuracy. 

The author raises the complex moral questions associated with having machines killing people on the frontline, and the issues that arise when mistakes occur. There's also a fascinating discussion of stress disorders that remote pilots are suffering from - these men and women sit in offices in the US, controlling machines on the battleground far away, and return home for dinner every day after "a day's fighting". 

It's also interesting to look at the design of some of the machines and their control interfaces, many of which look like Wall-E with a machine gun. Weapons companies have copied controllers from the Playstation and Xbox, taking advantage of a generation that is comfortable using these devices without extensive retraining. The distance between shooting people on Halo and making real life-or-death decisions in operating a military robot is almost absurdly non-existent. 

I don't want to steal the book's thunder at all since this is one of the most gripping reads I've found in a while, and would highly recommend to everyone. While not a robotics book or a war book, it falls somewhere in the middle, and the topic is enthusiastically presented. The most chilling part is clearly that the science fiction of movies such as The Terminator is really not too far away, and we're on a cusp of a robotics revolution that will be as profound as the domination of the PC.

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Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century
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