Book Review: "Wired for War" by P. W. Singer
I actually got the idea of getting this book after watching an episode of The Daily Show with John Stewart and its interview of this book's author (who was there to promote this very book). It piqued my curiosity because I am very much into computers and robots.
Let me say that this book, just like the robots it discusses, is "frakin' cool".
The book starts out by describing typical scenes of robotic battle in Iraq and Afghanistan today alongside descriptions of the daily goings-on at the offices of the manufacturers of these robotic warriors. It goes on to discuss the history of robots and what constitutes robots in laypeople's terms. It continues to talk about how the development of the robotics sector is exponential rather than linear in pace; it then talks about future robotic warriors and their creators. To conclude Part One, the book discusses science fiction's influence on robotic development as well as the culture of roboticists who choose to conduct research while rejecting military funding for their research.
Part Two starts with a discussion of revolutions in military affairs (RMAs) and whether the computer, Internet, or robotics revolution would be the RMA du jour; it continues by talking about human-robot interactions on the battlefield when robots become adversaries, as well as when robots end up in the hands of enemies. It further discusses the decentralization of power with the advent of the Internet and robotics and how power is shifting away from governments and towards individuals, organizations, and contracting companies. It then talks about how the public is becoming more apathetic towards the realities of war now that soldiers themselves are being separated from the battlefield, as well as what this change means for the soldiers and their families. It finally explores the possible scenarios of a robot revolt and the feasibility of programming ethics into robots.
It's a great read because it accurately conveys the excitement of the author in dealing with the subject. (Really, it's a great read because I'm into robots.) But there is one concern that I have that the book also does discuss: in today's warfare, the enemy is not fazed by the loss of their own life (in fact, such loss of life is revered as a sort of martyrdom), while the enemy looks upon our use of robotic technologies not with shock and awe at their technical prowess but with disdain at what they perceive is indicative of our cowardice. With that combination, we will never win.