inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #26 of 82: Jef Poskanzer (jef) Tue 5 May 09 16:23
    
Barn horse bang.
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #27 of 82: Andrew Alden (alden) Tue 5 May 09 16:47
    
I wonder about the soldier's honor; also the insult to a foe that you won't
risk your own skin to wage war.
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #28 of 82: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Tue 5 May 09 19:01
    

> I wonder about the soldier's honor...

Asking about a soldier's honor reminds me of a knight of the Round Table
who is appalled by modern warfare.
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #29 of 82: John Payne (satyr) Wed 6 May 09 09:08
    
Even the skillful use of a sword allows one to remain just slightly
outside the fray, until someone with a throwing axe or bow comes
along.  To take this train of thought to it's endpoint, when some
hominid first learned to sharpen a stick to make a simple spear, or
lash a rock to it to make a simple hammer, he took the first small
step in the direction of removing himself from the violence of battle,
and his foes might well have thought "what a coward" as he kept them 
at bay.
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #30 of 82: John Payne (satyr) Wed 6 May 09 10:30
    
Peter, since the chapter involving them didn't make the cut, how about
treating us to an annecdote or two regarding your Roomba and the cat?
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #31 of 82: Mary Mackey (mm) Wed 6 May 09 10:41
    

I'm enjoying this, Peter.

For the completely clueless among us, could you please give us a brief list
of the kinds of major war robots that are (or will be) built in the near
future?
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #32 of 82: John Payne (satyr) Thu 7 May 09 07:10
    
One thing that struck me repeatedly was the seemingly easy way in which 
the word "war" is used, as an abstraction, a collective term, or a loose 
reference to wars that might be looming in the near future, without the
qualifying "in the event of" (or some equivalent) that is more likely to 
be added in civilian discourse.

To judge from your book, in military circles war seems to be taken as a
given, something that's certain to happen sooner or later, more likely
sooner.  And I gather that you intended the title as a double entrendre,
suggesting that we too are wired for war.  History certainly argues in
favor of such a view.

Given this, and the reality that weapons technology has a way of getting
around, how does it help us in the long run that machines are taking the
place of some combatants or at least allowing them to act from a distance?
If we make use of a technology to deny our enemies (another term too 
easily wielded) safe haven, aren't they likely to sooner or later make 
use of such technologies to return the favor, bringing the fight here,
more than they have already?  How long can we expect to go on imposing
our will through force, with relative impunity, halfway around the world
before someone finds a way of making us pay for it with blood, mostly
civilian blood?

What is the wholesome, sane alternative that we are upholding through
all this?  Where is the example we can point to with some expectation of
a buy-in on the part of those who currently oppose us?

In a sense, the use of robotic weapons seems like a substitute for
good answers to those questions.  They will allow us to continue to
struggle without serious self-examinaton for awhile longer.
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #33 of 82: Peter W Singer (peterwsinger) Thu 7 May 09 09:26
    
Here is the section about our roomba and cat, that opened the chapter
on "robots in the home" that got cut. 

----------------------------

His pursuer nipping at his heels, Tiki Barber jumps forward a step and
then twists his body to the side. He narrowly avoids being hit as his
chaser races by. Once again, Tiki’s agility has gotten him out of a
tight spot. He licks his lips with a smile and turns his back on his
seemingly vanquished foe. 

But the chase isn’t over. The pursuer spins around on a dime and
rounds the corner, surprising Tiki. For a brief nano-second, the two
don’t move, facing each other without any display of emotion. 

Then Tiki stutter steps, followed by classic feint, jabbing with one
leg forward, before he sprints off to the open space to his right.
Relentless, his pursuer follows. But as the game continues, a winded
Tiki begins to wear down. The single-minded pursuer seemingly never
stops, never even changes pace. Now literally panting, Tiki decides its
time to end this. There is only one thing to do: Chest heaving, he
breathes deep and then leaps forward…up onto the dining room table. 

Tiki is my cat. He’s named after Tiki Barber, the NFL running back for
the New York Giants, turned television broadcaster. Tiki the cat got
this name not only because he has grey fur and blue eyes, exactly the
same shades as the Giants’ team colors, but also because he has a
running style that mimics Tiki Barber the human’s quick feet and
frequent cutbacks. Plus, we got our cat at the same time that Tiki
Barber the running back was leading my fantasy football team, “The
Raging Pundits,” to its league championship in the 2005-2006 season. 

On any given Sunday, Tiki the cat can be found on the playing field.
Just unlike His nemesis is not the Philadelphia Eagles linebacker
corps, but Scooby Doo 2, our robotic vacuum cleaner. Scooby Doo 2 is a
3rd generation Roomba Discovery vacuum cleaner, made by iRobot. It
takes its name not from the completely forgettable cartoon movie Scooby
Doo-2: Monsters Unleashed, but rather from an EOD robot that was
destroyed in the war in Iraq. The original Scooby Doo, the robot, was a
Packbot that carried out 17 missions in Iraq before being destroyed by
enemy fire in 2005 (Its remains are currently in the offices of
iRobot’s CEO Helen Greiner). Scooby Doo 2 honors its namesake by
patrolling the floors of my house, hunting down any dust bunnies that
threaten to ambush our way of life. Tiki the cat honors his namesake by
springing here and there to avoid being tackled by this new foe that
challenges him on his home turf.

Robots once only appeared in movies that took place in a far distant
future. Today, they can do chores at our homes, as well as entertain
our pets. 

Count the Lights:

It is sometimes easy to forget just how computerized and automated our
lives have become. Whether it’s the Automated Teller Machines that
have taken over banking, the cell phones, Blackberries, and blogs that
communicate for us, or even the Tivo searches that tell us what TV
shows to watch, technology is ever-present in the mundane of our day to
day lives. Indeed, it shapes our very life patterns of how we work,
shop, eat, and play. Its virtually impossible to find anyone that
doesn’t have a computer at their workplace, whether it’s the stock
broker who researches on-line leads, the farmer who automatically
waters their crops , or even the fast-food cashier who relies on the
computer to tally up orders. Indeed, while there is no lack of hype
over the impact of the Internet, it is sometimes easy to forget how its
changed even something as traditional as Christmas. Where once going
to the mall to stock up on presents and sit on Santa’s knee was a
mandatory part of the holiday preparation, last year’s Christmas
shopping season saw a half billion dollars spent each day not at the
mall, but in online shopping. And this was for items actually bought,
not counting the vast numbers of gift ideas that came from people
perusing possibilities on the web, so that they didn’t have to spend
extra hours at the mall.  

Perhaps the greatest change between our daily lives and those of the
previous generation is the manner in which computers have both become
embedded and forgotten at the same time. For example, the idea of
having a computer in one’s kitchen just a generation ago would have
been crazy. What purpose could it have accomplished, other than to
maybe store recipes that would have had to be accessed using BASIC and
then printed out on a spool printer that jammed every so often? Indeed,
the bulky thing would have filled the entire counter-top, crowding out
all your other appliances.  Today, multiple computers reside inside
refrigerators, stoves, microwave-ovens, and even coffee makers. 

And this is just the kitchen. Some estimate that by the year 2010, the
average family will have almost 100 computers in their home. On face
value, this sounds absurd, until you turn off the lights and count the
number of red dots that you see in your house already. From the
thermostat and security system that Dad checks before he goes to bed to
the cell phones and iPods that never seem to leave the kids’ ears,
computers are just about everywhere.  

Computers have become so commonplace in our lives that we largely
don’t think of them as computers anymore. They have become both
portable and individualized, and surround us to such an extent that
they have receded into the background. 

While it sure came fast, this change actually took many years.
Computers started out being balky and limited to research labs. Then,
they began to be utilized by the industry and the military, but only
for specific tasks and often behind closed doors. After this, computers
started to make a limited foray into the home, mainly through toys and
video games, all the while broadening their role in industry. Soon
thereafter, they integrated themselves into all facets of life, until
the point now where computer do everything from book your plane flights
and buy your movie tickets.  
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #34 of 82: Peter W Singer (peterwsinger) Thu 7 May 09 09:30
    
Mary (31),

Am glad you are enjoying this. The details on all the various robots
we are using in war today, from the Predator drones in the air to the
Packbots on the ground are covered in Chapter 1 of the book, "Scenes
from a Robot War." Then Chapter 5 looks at the various ones already at
the prototype stage in "Coming to a Battlefield Near You." You can also
check out some neat pictures and videos of what they look like on the
website for the book at wiredforwar.pwsinger.com
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #35 of 82: Peter W Singer (peterwsinger) Thu 7 May 09 09:37
    
John (32), You raise some incredibly good points on what is this thing
we now call "war." They actually link back to some earlier posts about
how is this all different from the Knight with his sword. One of the
funny things is how each time we created greater distance in war with
our technologies, most of the people at the time were shocked and
horrified. Indeed, there is a neat quote in the book from a fellow back
in the Middle Ages, who tells how anyone who uses this new thing
called the "gun" is a coward and committing murder, not a noble act of
war. But as that same example shows, we soon all readjust our sense of
right and wrong (our morality) and somehow make it all okay. What was
once "murder" soon is just "war." Robotics are part of this trend. BUT,
the distancing they allow is no longer just the ultimate in physical
distancing, being literally off the battlefield 7,000 miles away, but
psychological distancing in a new way as a result. Whether it was the
sword or the bomber pilot, they both experienced risk, both put their
lives in danger when they "went to war." Now, though, there is
literally no risk for the drone pilot, other than carpal tunnel
syndrome. And again, even this is growing outdated as we give more and
more autonomy to our machines (the Terminator scenario), which is the
true ultimate in distancing, complete disconnection. 
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #36 of 82: for dixie, southern iraq (stet) Thu 7 May 09 10:09
    
>as we give more and more autonomy to our machines (the Terminator
scenario), which is the true ultimate in distancing, complete
disconnection.

Problem is, humans can't react fast enough to keep up with faster &
faster machines, so they have to have more autonomy to be effective.

I'm not sure you cover it in your book, but computer systems to enable
combat commanders to make the right decision in time are under
intensive development - DARPA has three working, which are competing
against each other. 
You can read about the beginnings of the one I am most familiar with
here:
http://www3.isi.edu/about-news_story.htm?s=104
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #37 of 82: Eric Mankin (stet) Thu 7 May 09 15:23
    
(didn't mean to kill the discussion)..
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #38 of 82: John A. Morris (johnmorris) Thu 7 May 09 18:18
    
Its unlikely, even with some of these wonderful machines, that war
will become completely automated and sanitized. That said, my
experience so far with the book is that I can't keep the kids away from
it. My step son the IT geek comes over on the weekends to read my copy
and my draft person's 14 year old cousin had to call to say thanks to
me when she bought it for his birthday. It is, indeed, frakin cool.
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #39 of 82: bill braasch (bbraasch) Thu 7 May 09 22:31
    
my son graduates in mechanical engineering next month.  he told me a year or
so ago that it was all about building robots, the hardest part of that
making the robot just smart enough to correctly trigger the next move.

that picture of the robot in Iraq with the scorecard on its back and the
story about the soldiers not wanting to let it go to scrap is where it takes
us.  I felt sorry for the robot too.

I contrast that with a nice walk down south Dearborn in Chicago one night.
I remarked on the safe streets and learned that I'd been filmed by about a
dozen cameras along that stretch, and yeah it makes it safer.

With all the technology out in the open, what are the chances of
constraining tactics by governments or insurgents?  some percent of humanity
is going to be in conflict.  some percent of government power will be
corrupt.  we live in a harsh reality that's got totally cool technology.

we were already in a harsh reality.

It's a _Cat's Cradle_ reality on many levels, all of which require some kind
of intelligent moderation applied in a way that appeals even to
libertarians.

the book tells a fascinating story.  my son says the work is in government
research.  he's been working on a training system to reduce problems from
badly inserted breathing tubes.  He'd rather do that kind of work, or ocean
and climate research.  sounds like robotics is the next fountain of defense
funding and we're still ok with having expeditionary forces even at the
expense of improving our own healthcare.

how does robotics find the right balance between defense work and friendlier
applications?
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #40 of 82: Michael C. Berch (mcb) Thu 7 May 09 23:14
    
It's hard to imagine a scenario where robotics don't end up in *both*
military and peaceful applications. I mean, it's pretty much happened
with every other technology with dual uses -- at least those that are not 
exclusively weapons systems themselves. (I guess I'm not counting 
Project Plowshare.)  The peaceful uses are market-driven and the
military uses are essentially command-economy driven, with the
Pentagon's requests mediated by Congress. So in a sense they don't
compete with each other, and even if there is insufficient R&D
investment in the private sector, spin-offs and technology transfer
would very well jumpstart the non-military market.  
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #41 of 82: John A. Morris (johnmorris) Fri 8 May 09 07:23
    
The slinky started out in life as a more efficient technique for
manufacturing piston rings for motors in WWII. The inner workings of
the Norden Bomb Sight and the inertial navigation systems were first
manufactured as interesting toy gyroscopes before the war. Think of
Pynchon's Bloody Chicklitz. Somethings, the .50 cal Machine gun comes
to mind, are just one or the other but I think the majority of stuff
qua stuff is dual use.
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #42 of 82: John Payne (satyr) Fri 8 May 09 07:23
    
What I fear is that we, the U.S., will leave the peaceful applications of
robotics to be dominated by others, while we concentrate almost exclusively
on military applications, missing some opportunities for economies of scale
and for synergistic development in the process.

But, speaking of the budget, DOD's overall budget has hardly changed, but
there's been some significant shifts above the bottom line.  How might the
reordering or priorities that produced them be characterized?

Oh, and thanks for the Roomba/Tiki story!
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #43 of 82: John Payne (satyr) Fri 8 May 09 07:28
    
Here's one example of where military robotics technology is headed,
a drone helicopter that pilots itself, mounting a remotely operated
sniper rifle...

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/04/army-tests-new/
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #44 of 82: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 8 May 09 07:33
    
fascinating home robot section. sorry it got cut. it always reminded
me of Heinlein's book The Door Into Summer.
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #45 of 82: Peter W Singer (peterwsinger) Sat 9 May 09 08:58
    
Dixie (36),

This idea of "battle management" systems and AI "decision aids" is
something I cover in the chapter in the book on how our technology
offers new aid to commanders, but also poses new challenges of
leadership. The systems allow us to sift through more information than
humans could ever on their own, as well as do it quicker. But it also
raises some interesting quandries. One JAG officer in the book talks
about what happens if the commander doesn't listen to their computer
aide? If the situation turns out right, we slap them on the back and
say "Good job, you once again showed why humans are smarter than
machines." But he asks, what if it turns out worse, and when they
ignore the recommendations of the machine, which had modeled out what
might happen, there are higher casaulties. The JAG say we might have to
explore prosecuting the officer for a war crime, as they deliberately
ignored the best available means to avoid such a tragedy. But then, he
notes, we would be oddly privledging the judgment of a computer over a
machine. 
That said, General Schwartz, chief of staff of the US Air Force,
recently spoke at Brookings (and said some really nice things about the
book), and again talked about how we are going to have to turn more
and more of the analysis of data gathered in battle over to computers
because there is just too much being gathered by our new unmanned
machines and it is coming in too fast for us to make good use of it. I
joked that I had the perfect name for the AI program they would turn
this battle management job over to: Skynet. 
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #46 of 82: John Payne (satyr) Sat 9 May 09 09:17
    
This sounds like a job for Tufte...

<http://www.amazon.co.uk/Visual-Display-Quantitative-Information/dp/0961392142>
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #47 of 82: Peter W Singer (peterwsinger) Sat 9 May 09 10:56
    
Bill (39)

I think this issue of finding the right balance is an important one
for the robotics field to wrestle with. Too often young roboticists
(guided by their professors) don't want to own up to the fact of what
their research is being used for. To be clear, I am not saying don't
take DoD money. Rather I am saying if you do, be proud of it and the
fact that your research is both taking and saving lives on the
battlefield in defense of America. BUT, if for some reason you are not
proud of that, then own up to the reality of what working on military
projects entails and don't take the money. It may seem the easy way
out, but morally, you can't have it both ways, working on military
projects, but saying you have nothing to do with war. 
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #48 of 82: John A. Morris (johnmorris) Sat 9 May 09 14:37
    
Tufte "Visual Display..." is within reach of my desk and is well worn.
Your young engineers could do a lot worse for a model. The vast
quantities of data coming into the system is part of what Clausewitz
called "the fog of war". The best officers understand and account for
that. 
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #49 of 82: John Payne (satyr) Sat 9 May 09 17:33
    
> in defense of America

If only we could be confident that's how our armed forces were being used.
Certainly, under the new administration, there's a better chance of it,
but a few short months ago it seemed far more in doubt.  I don't mean to
cast aspersions on anyone involved in the actual fighting, which is much
the same no matter what the geopolitical/economic reasons for it, but the
Bush-Cheney administration seemed capable of almost anything, including
inventing a war so their buddies could profit.

Let's not go there again, ever.
  
inkwell.vue.352 : P.W. Singer, Wired For War
permalink #50 of 82: John Payne (satyr) Sun 10 May 09 08:01
    
> <40> even if there is insufficient R&D investment in the
> private sector, spin-offs and technology transfer would
> very well jumpstart the non-military market

Eventually, but unless we're ready to let non-military robots
be something we import from east asia and europe, we'd better
get serious about it.

We need something like DARPA for non-military R&D, perhaps as
part of the Dept. of Commerce, or, for my purposes, the Dept.
of Agriculture.
  

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