Since apes came down from the trees and that very first primate picked up a bone and used it to kill
a rival there has been fighting. As families or clans or tribes came to fight against each other we have
We have historic evidence of wars ten thousand years ago between the city states of the fertile
crescent as our agrarian civilisation began.
Throughout this time it has always been people who fought the wars and people who suffered.
This inevitably leads to death, soldiers die, civilians die, innocent bystanders die or suffer when trade
is disrupted, food or water is taken for the soldiers, crops fail because the farmers have been called into
It is this that forms a measure of the war. It is this, the very human suffering that acts to limit what is
done, what can be done, what will be done.
Modern politicians and military leaders are far more aware of such death and such suffering. Every
mobile can be used to record a soldier shooting a civilian. Every war and military campaign is surrounded
by reporters and journalists. Every dead young man (or increasingly dead young woman) is reported.
People are aware of the deaths. The gathering at Wotton Basset is a case in point. Hundreds and at times
thousands of people, locals, veterans and complete strangers came together to welcome this countries
sons or daughters home for one last time.
Such assemblies made the news, the returning honoured dead were in the public eye.
Which is, of course, the real reason our caring government changed the arrangements for returning
dead servicemen and tried to sneak them into the country quietly by using an isolated airfield. People
being people still came out to show their respects and instead of lining the streets of Wotton formed
up by a bus stop and layby. Bless them all for caring when our political class does not.
So what to do. It’s not as if our politicians are any less interested in starting wars or joining other
peoples wars. To a politician last month is ancient history but to the rest of us it was not so long ago
that our PM was trying very hard to get the UK and US to start yet another war in Syria.
Now Politicians have been and still are fairly careless when spending the lives of our young men and
women but have to be aware of little details like grieving families or law suites.
So how to continue bombing and destroying those third world nations in a way that keeps Western
Well that would be technology. Drones, Robots, Mobile Autonomous Weapon Carriers.
Flying high above a battlefield, bussing the tree tops driving along the roads or crawling across the
rubble. Software limitations mean that at present they are remote controlled rather than autonomous
but if we can build cars that can drive themselves or gun turrets that can identify targets for
themselves we are basically ready to combine the two and make these:
Software, hardware, materials, weapons.
We have the technology, we can build them.
In fact there are probably workshops and black tech labs that are building and testing something like this.
The UN are normaly fairly slow at responding to events, they make judgements after the fact.
So what have they seen that prompted this ruling now?
could be usurped, software rewritten or corrupted. That the machines could rise against us.
This is a very real threat but it is only half of the problem and I will speak of it another day.
Today I want you to consider this.
A machine doesn’t get tired, it has no concept of fear, every action, every shot, every deed
will be as precise as its software and hardware allows.
“Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It
can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will
not stop, ever, until you are dead.” Terminator 1984.
No hesitation, no concern, no second guessing orders, no mercy. Absolute obedience to orders
no matter the consequences. Can anyone honestly say that the US or UK governments will show
the slightest hesitation in using such technology in the future.
People say that remote control weapons keep people in the loop, that human controllers giving
the orders to kill or not to kill keep the casualties down and keep war a matter for humans.
Sorry but that is wrong. Very Wrong.
The man or woman flying a drone is sitting in a comfortable chair a thousand miles from the fighting,
they are in no risk, no danger to them from the enemy. They will sit, keyboard or control console in
front of them, drink beside them, a paper or book and music to while away the boredom.
Not for them the heat of the sun on their backs, not for them the weight of weapons and webbing, the
long hike to reach the target. Not for them the taste of dust in their mouths or the smell of smoke and
death in their noses.
They do not see or smell the blood and the death. They watch events on a monitor, most of them see
a poorer quality image than you would expect to see on your home TV. Console games have more
realistic images of death and destruction than the Drone operators see.
The US is even changing the control interfaces to better resemble games controllers because many of the
Drone operators are more familiar with them than keyboards.
Game players playing games, they are so remote from the death that a Drone strike in Afghanistan or
Pakistan is less real that a good score in Call of Duty. Target destroyed, good job, lets grab a pizza and a
few beers to celebrate.
It is this that leads to the other half of the problem that we, as a society and as Humanity, face in this
issue. While war is terrible, while our young men and women pay the price and are seen to pay the
price of war, then wars will remain thing of horror to be avoided. The conscience of the voters
can still be stirred by the sight of flag draped coffins and veterans of foreign and often pointless wars
When war becomes no more than a computer game or a matter of budgets, when we no longer have
our sons or daughters at risk and it becomes a matter of deploying so many robots to a far distant
shore to kill people and our battles are no more than lines on a budget report.
Then we will cease to care about the cost of war, the death and the suffering, because we will no longer
be paying that cost.
When it becomes easy to go to War, we will, again and again.