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The Drone Army

PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 1:26 am
by Carleas
tentative wrote:I maintain that armed drones are an ethical approach to seeking out and killing known and proven enemies of state, no matter where, or what nationality they represent.

Tentative vs. Tab on the subject of a drone army. No rules, just participants and a topic.

And... Go!


Re: The Drone Army

PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 4:01 am
by tentative
Well, since I proposed first, I'll go first. I think that the first step is to clarify the parameters a bit since ethics so often get's confused with morality and people express their morality as ethics. For the purpose of this debate, I wish to avoid morality, which I see as one's personal beliefs and behaviors and instead look to the standards of behavior or societal rules as a system promoted by a society as being "ethical". Morality is self control while ethical behaviors may be other dependent. You may counsel your sister to not have an abortion for moral reasons, but support abortion rights as an ethical societal choice. In the same way, cold blooded murder by an armed drone can be considered morally repugnant, and yet an ethical choice for the protection of a nation or any social grouping.

Deciding the criteria of that which is ethical is a bit murky, but there is a common every day rule that seems to be accepted and should be the model for any authority charged with the use of weaponized drones. That rule is to react, not act. Proposing to do evil, to break a law, or in any way otherwise just considered threatening is not the same as acting on such a proposal. Showing a propensity toward violence isn't the same as being violent, and a drone "strike" should never be authorized unless the target has participated in violence. To say it another way, scouring the internet looking for extremist sites promoting violence may bear watching, but authorizing a drone killing waits until the target has carried out an act of violence. This rule is in keeping with the notion that one is innocent until proven guilty, and falls within those lines we would call ethical. If drone capabilities are kept within these guidelines, then such killings can be considered an ethical choice.

Additionally, one must look at all other available options to insure an ethical perspective. Should an individual or group of individuals commit an act of violence, then one can declare a state of war, send in full military forces to capture or kill the target group. Or, one can use both surveillance and armed drones to seek out and destroy the intended targets. The chances of large numbers of civilian casualties, destruction of infrastructure, and military personnel losses will be much less when drones are used as opposed to "boots on the ground". It is far more ethical to use drone technology than full military strength to prevent large scale loss of life on either side of conflict.

I'll stop here and wait for a response...

Re: The Drone Army

PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 8:54 am
by Tab
Don't know about you, but I'm going for the "three squirts and withdraw" model of debate. I'll post something today, time allowing. Might be Saturday morning though. It's my kid's graduation (from primary school) party tonight at a fancy restaurant. =D>

Re: The Drone Army

PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2013 10:33 am
by Tab

The argument for drones is pretty much the same argument as for any of the new smart weapon systems. Less people killed, the right people killed. Not pretty, but makes perfect sense; better to snipe, than to blindly shotgun everything with your fingers crossed. Very surgical, like Dr. House with a kalashnikov, shooting cancer, unconventional - but great TV. Or "Wall-e goes to Iraq" maybe. Oh, hang on, Wall-e has already gone to Iraq.


Well, that saved me half-an-hour on photoshop. Thank you internet.

On the small-scale, perfect-world end - clear legitimate target, perfect deployment - Tentative's gonna win this one. Hands down. Press-button, destroy evil-doer - easy as a credit-card swipe at the mall, except you don't take home new shoes.

But on the big scale, with a quick squint around the corner of the future, drone-armies are bad news.

But first.

Imagine there is a fat kid. I mean fucking huge. Blimplike in dimension. Put a gondola on that mother and fly him to Europe. But fat kid's trying, he's watching what he eats, trying to reduce the titanic arsenal of food he's got stashed in the fridge, by erm, not buying it rather than eating it. Get slim, save money. Future's rosey. Throw the gondola away, all transatlantic flights cancelled.

I come along. Give him a big smile. Bring in a big ole box. It's the Cheapsnax 3000™ food-dispener unit. Sits comfortably by the fridge - hell the deluxé version follows you around the house - don't even have to get off the sofa - primo smart-snax technology. Your ideal hunger solution - auto-clean function to tidy up collateral-crumb spillage. Assorted pastel colours, interior-decorator approved. Comes with auto-stock support function - you need never actually buy your own food again, no more painful waddles to the mall, consume endlessly from the comfort of your own home.

Unethical..? I mean, I haven't put a gun to his head or anything. He doesn't have to abuse it. I mean, if used wisely, it could save him time and money. If he explodes all over his appartment 6 months later it ain't nothing to do with me.

I was talking this over with a mate at work, first thing he said was "Whoo, cool, but expensive." But - Let's look at some figures.


Not expensive. Roughly half as cheap to make at first glance. But look deeper, and the advantages of drone-soldiers to flesh soldiers are endless. Humans are badly suited to war. Don't need to grow a drone over a 20 year period. Turn 'em out by the 1000, week in, week out. Don't need to send them to boot camp. Downloading in progress. Don't get post traumatic stress disorder. Don't need paying, nor a pension.

Make them modular. If one gets immobilized, it doesn't sit there crying for its lost legs and bleeding all over the place. It becomes a sentry, patiently pot-shotting targets till it runs out of ammo. Then it becomes a stationary mine. Blows up if you come too close. Gps locator chips means it can be found even if rendered completely inoperable. Use the modules left to rebuild other drones. Plug and play. Kill a flesh soldier and he's 100% dead. Wound one and he's a burden on his comrades, even better. RPG a drone and maybe you'll kill it only 20% dead. And it goes right on trucking.

And ammo. Humans are shit at killing other humans. Let's ask statisticians.

In Vietnam, 50,000 rounds were used for each kill, a three-fold increase over WWII levels.

There is an amazing (and startling) statistic out of Iraq and Afghanistan: the United States has fired an estimated 250,000 bullets for every insurgent killed. [source: reddit]

Wow. Just Wow. 5.56mm bullet manufacture and cleanup costs Green bullets, who knew..? :lol:

Drone-soldier however, could do better. Maybe not one shot one kill, not initially anyway. But it's a software/hardware problem, and problems get solved. The two big advantages here are:

(1) Scalability. With humans, you have to train each individually. Like making chairs for a living. You make a chair, you sell it. You make another chair, you sell it. You make one more, you sell it too. Write a drone trainer computer program however... Write it once, upload it a bazillion times while you sit back and throw cigar-butts at the chair-maker.

(2) Lack of conflict between orders and instinct. There's a joke. The bare bones are - General sends soldier into room with gun. Tells soldier to kill occupant as test of loyalty. [Gun fires blanks btw. it's only a psych test]. First two refuse. Last one comes out [he's usually of comical ethnic descent - Irish or something] breathing heavily. General says "Wtf..?" Last guy says "Well sir, the gun shot blanks so I had to kill them with a chair..."

Hilarity ensues.

Why's it funny though..? Someone died afterall. Died by chair even, one of the most horrible deaths of all. It's funny because humans have a natural aversion to killing other humans. Look at the propagandic lengths that are needed before killing strangers X,Y & Z begins to seem like a good idea, and the still further lengths required before the job gets done. There is always a war of public relations before the shooting version starts.

But drone boy..? Nah. Just upload new targetting details, insert ammo into hopper A.


I could do this all day. But boiled down, drones, once out of their rather comical infancy, will become an automated war-package. Press button recieve bacon, erm, victory. The Cheapbang 3000™ Death-dispenser.

Is it unethical in itself..? On the scale of individual units and individual missions..? No, no more than an axe chopping trees. Is it unethical on a wider scale, given humanity's frailities in the face of temptation..? Hell yes. No more trees and squirrels crying on treestumps.

Re: The Drone Army

PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2013 1:56 pm
by tentative
I'll admit that I sandbagged this debate by limiting what is ethical to individual case-by-case scenarios. And yes, we could go one for days if we allowed the "are humans capable of being ethical?" question to be given consideration. In the larger picture, as long as humans accept violence as a legitimate way to resolve conflict, then "ethical" has no meaning. But if we reduce the scope of violence - and drones provide that capability, then killing is reduced. Can the technology be misused? Of course. It is no different than our learning how to split the atom. Nuclear power for peaceful energy production? Sure. But only after we build bombs and blow the shit out of two Japanese cities. Drones are a double-edged sword, and they will be misused. Our frailties guarantee that. But any movement toward less killing is a positive. Instead of carpet bombing a city into submission, killing thousand of civilians and destroying their infrastructure, "smart" bombs can allow for less overall killing. That's true whether delivered by humans in aircraft or humans sitting in a comfy chair in front of a computer safe from the actual delivered violence.

You know my thoughts about the potential of humanity in general, but I didn't make the rules, I just look at them and try to find ways to minimize our destructive habits.

So drones have to be considered "ethical" if used in specific and narrow ways (stop laughing). That they will be misused is another issue.

OK. I won, but only because I cheated right from the get go. But it wasn't too bad, was it? Hell, I didn't even mention religiously motivated violence, and that would have really pried the lid off the can of worms...

Re: The Drone Army

PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:08 pm
by Tab
...Aha, but -

Re: The Drone Army

PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:18 pm
by tentative
Tab wrote:...Aha, but -

OK. Go for it. We've blathered, but we can both thread the needle if you like. :P

Re: The Drone Army

PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2013 6:50 pm
by Tab
:lol: To business: The sequel.


Tentative wrote: But any movement toward less killing is a positive. Instead of carpet bombing a city into submission, killing thousand[s] of civilians and destroying their infrastructure, "smart" bombs can allow for less overall killing.

Can they. Hmm. So, if we equate ethical state with fatalities then, okay, a drone would score better than a bombing-run. However, again, we're focussing too small.

Why are wars, big or small, hard to start..? - Unless they are brought to your doorstep and you have zero choice..? Simple answer, soldiers have Mums. And Dads, and girlfriends and wives and children and brothers and sisters and second cousins twice removed. To send a son or daughter off to fight, and maybe die for the cause of country - Dulcé et decorum est, pro patria mori [thanks Seigfried] - that soldier's family has to be damn well convinced that the cause of country in question is beyond doubt. Communism has to be smelled, weapons of mass destruction located, oil supply has to be threatened. Oops, sorry, scratch the last one, never happen. :-k

But if all that's gonna be sent overseas is a bunch of metal and wires, and comparatively cheap bunches of metal and wires to boot, then erm, who cares..? That initial social resistance to deployment, to the commitment of forces, will be reduced to a small murmur of "Well, try not to spend too much cash guys okay..?" Military interventions will barely ripple the social surface tension. What's news-worthy about Maul-e™ unit two-six-six taking a tracer in the chest-plate and getting his paint-job scratched..?

Poeple would just get used to seeing the results of such actions, with near-zero human costs.

ie. casualties for any single skirmish may be lower with drones... More 'ethical'... But the total number of skirmishes would increase. And given our rates of energy consumption... Increase probably exponentially.

Next question of course, the other end of the equation, what stops wars..?

Well, economic-wise - attrition. Lack of matériel, lack of ammunition and other supplies, lack of soldiers to use them. But more often than not, in our modern age of limited warfare, it never comes down to the economic wire - long before that the public becomes increasingly outraged by the loss of life. Erm, the lives of their own soldiers anyway - fuck those other guys. Why else do the armed forces try to minimise casualties..? Leave no-man behind..? Because they care deeply about the welfare of their men..? Yes, that must be it. Nothing to do with trying frantically to eke out their dwindling supply of public support until they achieve their objectives. No, that would be deeply cynical and completely unlike me.

No one will mourn the loss of a drone in combat. It would be like mourning a toaster.

So then, once begun, why stop a drone-war..? Even if an objective is reached, a country subjugated. Why bring them home at all.? It costs big to occupy a country with conventional troops, but you could just park your drones around the map in armored bunkers, put them in sleep mode, and hang out the solar-panels - indefinitely. There's your veto-power right there and ready to go.

So - in short, wars, of the smaller M.I.C. type, driven by scarcity perhaps, will become waaaaay more common/acceptable to public opinion, and last a lot longer - grinding up more human lives in the process and manufacturing enemies as they go.

Re: The Drone Army

PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2013 8:01 pm
by tentative
Well, your post ends in the summation that humans are no damned good. Your scenario is certainly plausible and would appear to be a likely development. But there is a possibility of a general backlash -ie- an overwhelming lack of approval by the general populace of most societies. The line between battlefield deaths and out and out murder is very thin and will get even thinner as drone proliferation creates more "errors in judgement". An anology is the nuclear arms race that finally became insane enough that the big boys decided to back off and do what they could to stop nuclear proliferation. Drones could face the same fate. Humanity may be as worthless as you say, but when your children could be killed by a drone that identified the wrong car or house, the demand to get them out of the air could be very strong. You mentioned how do we stop wars? That is certainly the larger issue, and I think we started down that line of inquiry in our "both losers" debate.

Again, I sandbagged the debate by limiting the issue to policies arising from ethics which as you well know, are thinner than frog's hair and usually are reduced to convenience. The larger issues are a different debate and would have to include morals feeding ethics and ethics feeding morals. Perhaps this has been a prelim to a larger question: What can be done to reduce or eliminate as far as possible our violent nature? Drones are just another step in our constant search for more efficient ways to be violent. Until we begin to address violence as a no-no, drones, and whatever follows will be with us.

Right now, my largest concern isn't the governmental drone programs as lethal as they may be. It is the bat shit crazy religious extremists of ALL stripes that worries me. It is possible right now to buy a fly-right-out-of-the-box small hovering drone carrying two cameras that can fly for about 20 minutes with a direct down link feed to a laptop. You can buy it for approx. 500.00. It takes little imagination that a grenade-sized explosive could be carried to your front door, or your car, or to any place that is giving the extremist heartburn. At the moment, the thing is being used to scope out the hottie next door who likes nude sunbathing, but weaponizing the craft would be easy peasy. And you know if I can think of it, it's already being done somewhere.

What is ethical and what is moral are butting heads, and both seem to be losing their luster - if they had any in the first place.

Re: The Drone Army

PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2013 8:48 pm
by Tab
gotta say we rock - fastest debate ever. =D>

will post my final blurb before bedtime.

Re: The Drone Army

PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 3:20 pm
by Tab
Hey, sorry for the delay - Turkey's political scene is really kicking off - just type "Gezi park" into google or youtube.

Anyway. I think to be honest I've said most of what I wanted to, at least most of what I think is directly relevant to the question of ethical practice. The danger of drones is that they facillitate warfare being used as a quick and dirty 'diplomatic' solution to international conflicts. Such use becomes habitual, especially if scarcity of resources in the hi-tech country possessing drones drives an isolationist and rapacious social mind-set. They are also a tool for indefinite subjugation. Empire builders.

That said, I can see them acting as a permanant robo-cop UN force in Africa, until Africa gets its ass in gear society-wise. Though whether the West would ever allow Africa to get its shit together for long enough to become an economic and political rival to the already entrenched superpowers is another question.

And of course the question as to whether they will be developed is moot. Of course they will. How they'll proof them against hacking and emp-weapons is another question - emp weapons are pretty easy to construct.

I have made mini EMP's before...

grab a tube of some sort(preferably not metal) wrap copper wire from one end to the other and connects the ends of the wire.put a firecracker in the middle of the tube(possibly with a fuse sticking out of a small hole) and put a strong neodymium magnet on each side of the firecracker.light it and runbut be careful pieces of the tube can come flying at you or you could get hit by the magnets flying out of the tube's ends.

Just scale up.

On the one-to-one scale I think they are unethical because they put a screen between the human about to be killed, and the human about to do the killing. Cognitvely, this makes it easier for someone to kill. However, it could equally be said that putting this distance between the operator and the heat of battle would make it easier for the operator to make cold-blooded decisions to spare a life as well. Also harder to rape someone using a drone interface, unless the tech whizzes get really perverse. There's also the question of atrocity cover-ups. Drones tell no tales. Wipe their memories and a glitch/massacre didn't happen. Well, circle of truth is diminished in diameter.


On the whole though, I come to the same conclusion. Small scale, precise use of drone weapons on legitimate targets with low collateral damage is ethical; but on the larger scale influence foreign policies toward the unethical use of pre-emptive force rather than diplomatic compromise and tolerance.

Drone one, over and out.


Re: The Drone Army

PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 4:01 pm
by tentative
Dammit, we end up agreeing and we're both "losers" again. :x :lol: Everything you said was probably said about the invention of guns. No close-in battling with swords and knives, just stand back a hundred yards and bang! It disconnects the combatants from each other and... blah blah blah. It's been the same story with every new weapon technology for the last millenia. There is no question that drones are a giant leap in technological destructive powers. The truly dangerous part of all of it is the proliferation of the damned things to every group or individual with something to prove. They're cheap enough to be available to almost anyone. Yeah sure, used properly, they can minimize killing and destruction, but my cynicism says...

Anyway, we made our "points", such as they were. BTW, Who's judging this? Did we get judges or was this just a blathering contest?

Moreno, if you'd like, we could start another thread addressing this to the larger community in maybe Sociology? I think it's good to at least look at the downside of this technology, particularly after the "drones are good" bullshit that I parroted along with all the power hungry people who will misuse the technology. What you thunk?

Re: The Drone Army

PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:11 pm
by Tab
Sorry I edited in two lines about secrecy. I'm evil I know.

Anyway - I just told people to vote in the discussion thread and say why etc. - give it a week and call it either way.

May the best man who lives in Turkey win.