(Didn't mean to let this sink; work got crazy.)
Originally posted by oddmanrush:
Assassinating evildoers in remote locations is one thing; getting in the habit of outsourcing death and destruction to the bots is another.
Originally posted by fuldog:
I wonder of the ethical issues that widespread use of drones and semi-autonomous, armed equipment in warfare will bring about. Aside from still struggling with the enormity of the action of soldiers aiming a joystick and taking down combatants a continent away...
The thing is, we aren't really “outsourcing death and destruction to the bots.” Predators don't launch weapons autonomously: someone in the ground station has to pull the trigger. While the physical distance to the targets might be greater, he psychological distance is actually lessened. The Predator was originally designed as a surveillance platform: the crews can see remarkable detail from the onboard cameras and can hear the soldiers on the ground talk to them over the satellite link. After a strike, the Predator often stays on station to assess the damage. The Predator pilots have a much clearer view of the consequences of their actions than, say, an artillery crew launching rockets from tens or hundreds of kilometers away.
Originally posted by fuldog:
...what about if (when) there's a malfunction? When the predator changes course and slams a busy city center instead of a desert bunker? When the aerial drone gets confused and goes on a friendly-fire rampage? When a weaponized BigDog gets lost in the aftermath of a battle and ends up in an enemy civilian area but with no one to give a stand down command? Who will be responsible of those mistakes and deaths: programmers, technicians, soldiers, commanders?
I think the concept of warfare you base your objections on is, no offense, anachronistic. This is something that has been a part of war for years. Bombs and shells can fall short, long or wide, or fail to fuse and not explode until someone disturbs them months or years later. Today, a plane can take off with a bomb or missile pre-programmed to fall on a set of coordinates identified before the pilot who ends up launching them ever stepped to the jet. The bombs themselves might fly a complex flightpath determined by on board computers. Although technology is making it possible to give weapons greater and greater autonomy, someone still has to aim them at a target. Although it may no longer be one person identifying, tracking and attacking a target, that kind of collective responsibility has existed in warfare since the introduction of the first crew-served artillery, and the fog and friction which results in mistakes and unintended results has been around for far longer than that.
EDIT: I should probably add that I have two friends from college, both men I respect, who are currently piloting Predator drones, and I took umbrage at the characterization of Predator crews as amoral sociopaths who kill foreigners by day then do body shots off Vegas hookers by night.