Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Greetings, Vigilitarians!

Pop Quiz: Which of these two Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles is real and which one is a prop from a movie? 

You can find the answer at the end of this post!

In the seminal 1984 sci-fi actioner The Terminator, futuristic freedom fighter Kyle Reece goes back in time to safeguard Sarah Connor, who will eventually give birth to the mother of the resistance.  When they first meet, Kyle has to do some fast talking to convince Sarah that he's telling the truth, as opposed to that crazy guy outside the sandwich shop who's always going on about how Moon Nazis are using high-frequency brain waves to compel him to touch himself in public.

Here's an early dialogue sequence in which Kyle talks about the dystopian hellscape from whence he came:  

Kyle Reese:  There was a nuclear war.  A few years from now, all this, this whole place, everything, it's gone.  Just gone.  There were survivors.  Here, there.  Nobody even knew who started it.  It was the machines, Sarah.
Sarah Connor:  I don't understand.
Reese:  Defense network computers.  New... powerful... hooked into everything, trusted to run it all. They say it got smart, a new order of intelligence.  Then it saw all people as a threat, not just the ones on the other side.  Decided our fate in a microsecond: extermination.
Sarah Connor: Did you see this war?
Kyle Reese:  No.  I grew up after.  In the ruins... starving... hiding from H-K's.
Sarah Connor:  H-K's?
Kyle Reese:  Hunter-Killers.  Patrol machines built in automated factories.

When people talk about the real-life fulfillment of sci-fi technology they usually reference innocuous, life-affirming things like communicators and PADD's from Star Trek.  But, you know me, I like to bring up the scary, invasive, dystopian shit like remote-controlled, death-dealing aerial drones.  Whenever I broach a subject like this people tend to get sheepish and attempt to change the subject.  Unfortunately, my example is just as real as hyposprays and teleconferencing.

I was at a reading recently and during the intermission we all started talking about current events and U.S. foreign policy.  When the subject of drones came up, only one other person besides myself seemed to know anything about it.  This was both surprising and disturbing to me because these aren't the sort of folks who get their news from homogenized non-sources like the Metro or spazz out on excessive amounts of brain-numbing network television.  But in light of recent revelations by Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs this awareness deficit shouldn't surprise anyone:

From their earliest inception in the pages of Popular Mechanics to their limited use in the Iran/Iraq War in 1980 to their current role as tireless soldiers our various wars against illegal immigration, crime and terror, drones are becoming increasingly prevalent.  In fact, at least eleven countries currently deploy armed remote air vehicles with regularity.

Despite the fact that the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (cute name, huh?) costs $36.8 million a pop, authorities maintain that this is still "slightly cheaper" then training and retaining conventional pilots.  More importantly, the powers that be insist that drones and other robots provide cleaner operational flexibility and keep troops out of unnecessary harm.  Although, in theory, it does makes sense to fight wars by proxy using technology, we also have to admit that humanity has a pretty piss-poor track record when it comes to applying common sense to these things.

As such, we now find ourselves struggling with an entire host of issues, including:

(1) Privacy...

(2)  Collateral damage amongst civilians:

(3) The lack of accountability:

(4)  Inspiring rather then demoralizing America's enemies, whether they be real or imagined.

(5)  The deployment of drones in our very own airspace:

(6)  The legal sticky wickets inherent in using drones for law enforcement.  

And since it only costs a coupla hundred bucks to buy one yourself what do you think's gonna happen when every chucklehead with a credit card owns one?  After a heated disagreement with the neighbor over who's turn it is to mow the front lawn how many people are gonna go running for their remotes?  The last time I checked hellfire missile strikes don't leave fingerprints.  

And then there's the actual real-life Terminator scenario.  If we're to believe Ray Kurzweil's technology singularity hypothesis, then computers will likely surpass the brain power of human beings around 2035.  What if machines become self-aware and decide that their human overseers are decidedly fallible, inferior and infinitely squishy?  And what if we've already armed them, y'know,  just because.   Color us embarrassed, huh?  

Given that people are so blissfully smitten with technology that they gleefully advertise their constant whereabouts, volunteer to be microchipped like housepets and lobby the White House for a freakin' Death Star fer Chrissakes, a disproportionate amount of people would probably queue up for cybernetic implants as if it's the latest iPhone.  Look, I'm as much of a Star Wars fan as the next guy but a proposal, even in jest, to construct an armored space space station who's sole function is oppression and planetary annihilation is a tad antisocial to me.

Now, I hear what you're thinking: "C'mon, Dave, don't be so damned pessimistic!  Why can't you assume that we'll use this technology responsibly?"  Well, probably because, back in 2011, a group of scientist created an airborne "super-strain "of avian flu.  Why?  Apparently just for shits and giggles.

This bring me to my main point, perfectly summarized in the fictional, yet no-less-immortal, words of Jeff Goldblum's Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park: 

"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."

Oh, by the way, the drone is the thing pictured on the left.  Funny thing is: adjusted for inflation, the movie prop probably cost a lot more to build then it is to buy your average drone today.

EPIC DOCS  Get to know our inevitable robot overlords!

EPIC CLIP  Jeff Goldblum is totally pimp, yo.

9,540 people like this. FAIL  Welp, if you're gonna put a price on community snoopery and petty neighborhood revenge, $395.89 is actually pretty decent.  

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