Thursday, April 15, 2010

P.W. Singer

P.W. Singer is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution; at 34 years old, he's the youngest person ever to hold that position. He's written for or appeared on a wide variety of media, from "60 Minutes" to the New York Times. He has worked for the Pentagon and Harvard University, and in his personal capacity, served as the coordinator of the defense policy advisory task force for the Obama campaign. In his previous two books, Singer foretold the rise of private military contractors and the advent of child soldiers - predictions which proved to be all too accurate.

His latest book is Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.

From his Q & A with Mark Medley for the National Post:

Where did the idea for this book come from?

I could say that the spark came while laying in bed, staring at my Battlestar Galactica bedsheets, but I got rid of those around the age of 10.

A couple of years ago I started noticing things that were fascinating and troubling at the same time. From the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner that patrolled my floors to the unmanned planes that my friends in the US Air Force were using to patrol Afghanistan, humanity has started to engineer and use technologies that were fundamentally different from all before. Our creations were not just linking us together, but now acting in the world without us.

I felt myself living at the time of the most important technologic and weapons development since the atomic bomb. One could even argue that the rise of these digital warriors was more significant, in that robotics alters not merely the lethality of war, but the very identity of who fights it. The end of humans’ monopoly on war surely seemed something momentous, which historians would talk about centuries from now, if humankind is so lucky to still be around.

Yet, for something so seemingly important, no one was talking about it. Time and again, I was struck by this disconnect. For example, as I reference in the book, I once went to a major conference in Washington, DC on “the revolution in military affairs.” The speakers included many of the most notable scholars in the field, as well as several key political and military leaders. And yet, over the course of several hours of pontificating on what was supposedly new and exciting in security issues today, not one mention was made of these new technologies, that we had some 7,000 robotic drones in the air, and another 12,000 on the ground, not even a single word. So that set me off on my journey.
Read the complete interview.

The Page 99 Test: Wired for War.

--Marshal Zeringue