Thursday, July 17, 2014

#199 / Drones #2

Drones are in the news. Click right here for a news report about a drone crashing into a crowd last year in Virginia. Click here to read a story about how Amazon is planning to use drones to deliver your consumer goods right to your door, within minutes of your order going in.

Drones are in the editorial pages of our newspapers, too, mainly in connection with their use as a military weapon. I have previously commented on an assertion that such military use should not be "politicized." More recently (and directly contrary to the advice of David Ignatius, the pundit who opposes "politicizing" the discussion about drones), the San Jose Mercury News has noted that the military use of drones may "destabilize legal and moral norms." 

Even more outrageous, the Mercury cites to studies claiming (gasp) that the use of drones, in a military context, may not even be "cost effective."

For those interested in the topic (and I think we should all be interested), there is another perspective worthy of consideration. Here is a link to an essay by Dr. Roger Berkowitz. Prudential questions (like cost effectiveness) are not its focus. Instead, Berkowitz raises the question whether the use of drones (in whatever capacity, military or commercial) may actually undermine both our humanity and our freedom. 

We are at risk of losing the rich and mature relationships that mark us as human. The rise of social robots, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other one‑dimensional machines that act like humans without the perceived human weaknesses of distraction, emotion, exhaustion, quirkiness, risk, and unreliability answers a profound human desire to replace human judgment with the more reliable, more efficient, and more rational judgment of machines. For all the superficial paeans to human instinct and intuition, human beings, in practice, repeatedly prefer drone-like reliability to the uncertain spontaneity of human intuition. In other words, we confront a future in which “human” is a derogatory adjective signifying inefficiency, incompetence, and backwardness.

The title of Berkowitz' paper is Drones And The Question of "The Human." His argument should be taken seriously. 

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1 comment:

  1. How does the advance of robotics put us at risk of losing the rich and mature relationships that mark us as human? Quadcopters replacing the pizza guy, camera guy, etc. is no different than any other disruptive technology making obsolete a job that already turn real humans into working "drones".

    Whether it's changing bobbins on a loom, copying a book with ink and quill, plowing a field, or picking cotton, replacing labor with technology has never taken away our humanity. It's granted more of us more time to explore it in more fulfilling, more human ways.


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