Documenting the Coming Singularity

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Fear the Reaper - Stone-Cold Robot Killers

Washington Post - January 4 2009, by John Pike

Armed robotic aircraft soar in the skies above Pakistan, hurling death down on America's enemies in the war on terrorism. Soon -- years, not decades, from now -- American armed robots will patrol on the ground as well, fundamentally transforming the face of battle. Conventional war, even genocide, may be abolished by a robotic American Peace.

The detachment with which the United States can inflict death upon our enemies is surely one reason why U.S. military involvement around the world has expanded over the past two decades. The excellence of American military technology makes it possible for U.S. forces to inflict vast damage upon the enemy while suffering comparatively modest harm in return.

War is about the sacrifice of blood and treasure, and the American style of war is to substitute treasure for blood. From the early days of the republic, when Eli Whitney is said to have used interchangeable parts to manufacture superior muskets, to the invention of Gatling guns and Kevlar armor, American ingenuity has been devoted to devising ever more efficient ways of killing the enemy and preventing the enemy from killing us.

One common factor in much of American military prowess is the surprisingly obscure fact of modern life known as Moore's Law. Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel, noticed nearly half a century ago that computing power seemed to be doubling about every two years. Laptops, cellphones, the Internet -- they're simply commentaries on Moore's Law.

The rapid emergence of the armed unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) that roam over Pakistan is a sequel to Moore's Law. Onboard computers became far more powerful, so automatic pilots became far more competent. Signal processors became more sophisticated, facilitating collection and processing of more interesting intelligence. Global Positioning System receivers shrank and could be economically employed on small robotic aircraft. Precision-guided munitions could deliver lethal firepower. And so forth.

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