CTlab’s second symposium in its 2009 series starts next week, on Monday, 30 March, and will run for four days, until 2 April (or until participants run out of steam, which might take longer). The subject: Peter Singer’s new book, Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (Penguin Press: 2009).
This is going to be an exciting booklab, on a work that’s been getting broad exposure, in an out of the blogosphere. Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution Senior Fellow for Foreign Policy, and Director of its 21st Century Defense Initiative, will be participating on day 1. Proceedings will be compiled and indexed on a separate page for ease of reference, here.
Confirmed participants include:
- Kenneth Anderson (Law; American University)
- Matt Armstrong (Public Diplomacy; Armstrong Strategic Insights Group)
- John Matthew Barlow (History; John Abbott College)
- Rex Brynen (Political Science; McGill University)
- Antoine Bousquet (International Relations; Birkbeck College, London)
- Charli Carpenter (International Relations; UMass-Amherst)
- Andrew Conway (Political Science; NYU)
- Jan Federowicz (History; Carleton University)
- John T. Fishel (National Security Policy; University of Oklahoma)
- Michael A. Innes (Political Science; University College London)
- Martin Senn (Political Science; University of Innsbruck)
- Marc Tyrrell (Anthropology; Carleton University)
Quite a few of our guest participants are active on the web, as well. Many participate in theSmall Wars Council, and write online about highly topical security issues. Blogs represented:
In July 2007 it was spying squirrels from Israel. Now, it’s pigeon spies:
Iranian security forces have apprehended a pair of "spy pigeons," not far from one of the country’s nuclear processing plants. If local media reports are to be believed, that is.
One of the pigeons was caught near a rose water production plant in the city of Kashan, down the road from the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. It had "a wired rod" and "invisible threads… fixed to its body," an unnamed source tells the Etemad Melli newspaper. A second, black pigeon was nabbed earlier in the month. …
Time once again for Project ACORN, the Autonomous Coordinated Organic Reconnaissance Network (first fielded July 2007):
Modern conflict is increasingly a struggle for strategic influence above territory. This struggle is, at its essence, a battle over perceptions and narratives within a psychological terrain under the influence of local and global pressures. One of the unspoken lessons embedded in the Counterinsurgency Manual (FM3-24) is that we risk strategic success relying on a lawyerly conduct of war that rests on finely tuned arguments of why and why not. When too much defense and too much offense can be detrimental, we must consider the impact of our actions, the information effects. The propaganda of the deed must match the propaganda of the word.
As Giulio Douhet wrote in 1928,
“A man who wants to make a good instrument must first have a precise understanding of what the instrument is to be used for; and he who intends to build a good instrument of war must first ask himself what the next war will be like.”
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has said that there is too much spending geared toward the wrong way of war. I find this to be particularly true in the area of battlefield robots. Much (if not all) of the unmanned systems planning and discussion, especially with regards to unmanned ground combat vehicles, is not taking into account the nature of the next war, let alone the current conflict.
Last year I posted an unscientific survey that explored how a ground combat robot operating away from humans (remote controlled or autonomous) might shape the opinions of the local host family. The survey also explored the propaganda value of these systems to the enemy, in the media markets of our allies, Muslim countries, and here in the United States. The survey results weren’t surprising.
Serviam Magazine just published what could be construed as an executive summary of a larger paper of mine to be published by Proteus later this year. That paper is about four times longer and adds a few points with more details. In the meantime, my article that appeared in Serviam, “Combat Robots and Perception Management,” is below.
Robots will figure prominently in the future of warfare, whether we like it or not. They will provide perimeter security, logistics, surveillance, explosive ordinance disposal, and more because they fit strategic, operational, and tactical requirements for both the irregular and “traditional” warfare of the future. While American policymakers have finally realized that the so-called “war on terror” is a war of ideas and a war of information, virtually all reports on unmanned systems ignore the substantial impact that “warbots” will have on strategic communications, from public diplomacy to psychological operations. It is imperative that the U.S. military and civilian leadership discuss, anticipate, and plan for each robot to be a real strategic corporal (or “strategic captain,” if you consider their role as a coordinating hub).
Source: my article “Combat Robots and Perception Management”, published in the 1 June 2008 issue of Serviam Magazine. The magazine’s website is no longer available, so it is reposted here: The Strategic Communication of Unmanned Warfare.
True, robots possess the ultimate in courage, but in the Information Age, when perception management is key, what do robots represent and convey? How do they fit into counterinsurgency and reconstruction? How does the availability of robots affect policy makers’ choices?
Update: video may be downloaded here.
Can I own a South Korean robot or am I it’s guardian? From BBCNews:
An ethical code to prevent humans abusing robots, and vice versa, is being drawn up by South Korea.
The Robot Ethics Charter will cover standards for users and manufacturers and will be released later in 2007.
It is being put together by a five member team of experts that includes futurists and a science fiction writer.
The South Korean government has identified robotics as a key economic driver and is pumping millions of dollars into research.
If you watch technology, you should know that SK is adept at implementing new technology, including real high speed internet connectivity, and robots are part of the natural progression.
A recent government report forecast that robots would routinely carry out surgery by 2018.
The Ministry of Information and Communication has also predicted that every South Korean household will have a robot by between 2015 and 2020.
Will PETR be the new PETA?