Inside the Rise of the Warbots
Peter Singer’s Wired for War has been praised by everyone from former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake to Jon Stewart as a definitive look at the growing use of robots on the battlefield. Just before his talk at TED 2009, we chatted with Singer, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and Danger Room contributor, about the rise of the machines.
Danger Room: Your last two books were on mercenaries and child soldiers. Why the switch to robots?
Peter Singer: I think the opening line of my book explains it all: “Because robots are frakkin’ cool.”
The long answer is that as I looked around at everything from the Roomba that cleans my house (and scares my cat) to the drones my friends in the Air Force were flying, I became more and more convinced that something big was going on. When historians look back at this period, they may conclude that we are today at the start of the greatest revolution that warfare has seen since the introduction of atomic bombs. It may be even bigger. Our new unmanned systems don’t just affect the “how” of war-fighting, but are starting to change the “who” of the fighting at the most fundamental level. That is, every previous revolution in war was about weapons that could shoot quicker, further, or had a bigger boom. That is certainly happening with robots, but it is also reshaping the identity and experience of war. Humankind is starting to lose its 5,000-year-old monopoly of the fighting war.