[Sidenote: follow the real TED 2009 liveblogging by Ethan Zuckerman]
There have been some phenomenal talks in this first day of TED 2009. If I had to pick a favorite, I don’t think any quite caught my imagination as did PW Singer’s talk on “Wired for War” talk on robots use in modern warfare. Singer is an interesting character, he’s a military analyst that doesn’t study or write about the normal topics that you think would come from someone with that profession. Apparently, his new book by that name just came out 5 days ago, and I’ve decided that will be my read for the flight back home.
Maybe it’s my infatuation with gadgets or making things, maybe it’s because I, like so many boys, fantasized about robots and all the cool things they could do as a child. Either way, I was mesmerized by his story, and the images he showed of this new breed of mechanized warfare and the “cubicle warriors” that control them.
Singer said that the robots we have now are the equivalent of the Model-T for vehicles 100 years ago. When you see what they can do, what they are capable of, that can be a very scary picture. The US military is on the cutting edge with the leading technology in this space right now, however there are 42 other countries working on military robotics too, so no one knows what will come next.
He takes us a step deeper and asks, “How do we rethink the rules of war?” What are the repercussions of a having robots that have the capability and “go ahead” to kill?
So, at the end, I’m troubled and I’m excited. It’s an amazing world of technology that I don’t know much about, but that has such potential for great good and for great harm.