Friday, April 29, 2016

Allow us to introduce the new cast, of an old play.

World War I was awful. Soldiers were forced to live, fight and die in a hole. Rotting away in rancid, water, afraid to stick their heads up for a second. That trench was their life, and often their grave. In theory you could travel from the English Channel to Switzerland without ever walking above ground along the front line. Eleven million soldiers and about seven million civilians died in the war. After it was over world leaders looked around and decided it had been a bad idea, and they probably shouldn't try it again.

World War II was fought above ground, with speed, manuevering, and lightning assaults by columns of tanks, close air support, and mobile artillery pieces. Essentially taking the front line and moving it back and forth across Europe. It became a rolling abattoir, grinding villages to dust, and civilians died in terrible numbers. Between 25 and 28 million soldiers, and estimates of 50 to 80 million civilians died in that war. Almost 3% of the worlds population. When it was over world leaders looked at the destruction and agreed that it had been a bad idea and they should probably try to avoid it in the future.

But, how do you avoid these things? What can be done to keep this disaster at bay? These are the questions that world leaders have been grappling with for the last seventy years. The United Nations was one small step, and a good start. A place to meet and discuss problems before cranking up the war machine. But, with time, the luster faded a little, and old habits die hard.

Sovereign states have been marching in step to the same drums since anybody has been able to write. Producing weapons and training armies all in the name of self preservation. And modern nations are no different.

How do you avoid war? Bigger weapons, or better weapons, or if you are really serious bigger, better weapons. Remember how effective that was after WWI. Wholesale slaughter, destruction, and carnage on a scale of ridiculous proportions. It was a testament to the industrial age.

Enter the Autonomous Killer Robot. It can be viewed as the latest attempt to make war a reasonably sane way to settle national differences.Of course, if you ask "why do we need autonomous killer robots?" the answer will be "our enemies will have them." And the beat goes on. If you ask "why does anybody need autonomous killer robots," the answer will probably be something about reducing casualties.  And if you point out that the best way to prevent casualties is to stop fighting wars you are branded a traitor, or even worse a dreamer.

So, after a brief intermission the show is back on. A new act, and a different cast but the same plot and mostly the same conclusion, destruction, death, and not much else. Please take your seat, things are going to get interesting.