December 28, 2009

The Terminator's Wisdom

Humanity tends to consider itself the apex of the global food chain. We’ve become accustomed to the top, so it stands to reason that we’ve lost the feeling of being hunted. Our worst enemy is now ourselves, a threat not so readily met by those outside conflict zones and random crime.

Humans walk their streets freely, unlike the mouse crossing a field who’s swooped before it can blink. But in Pakistan’s mountains, a volley of Hellfire missiles strikes with the same unexpectedness.

Yes, it’s time to talk drones again. As long as they keep falling we must keep talking. Pakistan, though, is only a fragment of technological warfare. The Pentagon is shipping Reapers to Afghanistan right off the assembly line and the world is, like it or not, headed towards a military technological revolution.

Application of computerized, mechanized warfare stands to grow into a prime branch of ethical studies. Moral awareness of drone warfare is a necessary counterweight to their use, and the Terminator series is sure to be regularly-shown class films.

Terminator Salvation may have been the least favorite in the series, but it shows what the others didn’t - a continual war between humans and machines. Drones in the sky, camera bugs in the windows, assassin droids roaming the streets are just the first assault level. Machines control large portions of the earth at all times, hunting the surviving humans of Judgment Day.

2018 is realistically impossible, but in the US military’s ever evolving quest to reduce the workload on and danger to its fighting force, machines will assume the place of private military contractors just as PMC’s replaced US soldiers in mundane and covert tasks. The rest of the world’s militaries will follow, creating a war not between humans and machines, but humans and their machines versus each other.

We aren’t paranoid about a post-apocalyptic, machine ruled, Matrix/Terminator environment, which may never exist on Earth. Rather, this environment already exists to a mild degree in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, where drones are over 10,000 and counting. The 100,000's aren't far away.
RQ-170 Sentinel (Kandahar Beast)
Terminator Salvation does one thing perfectly - humble. It allows an American, or any nationality, to experience what the US military is bringing to every future battlefield. Killing militants is one thing, but drones are eroding the privacy of Afghanistan. They watch everyone, not just the bad guys, not just in public but as much in private as possible.

We could argue all day whether drones help or hurt the conflict zones they stalk, but no lesson is more visceral than direct experience - being hunted by machines is terrifying, and being monitored non-stop is small consolation. A Terminator world ranks among humanity’s worst nightmare, yet we’re working to make it happen.

And it's all going to happen: robot tanks, warplanes, ships, bombs, even guns will be computerized, possibly automated.

This process, however, won’t occur overnight; the 21st century may not be enough time. But the next 90 years will bring stunning advances in military technology, and the majority of humans residing outside the global military complex must pay attention, educate and raise awareness, and generate political pressure to create government oversights.

Lest we believe putting up a resistance won’t make any difference.

Movies like Terminator Salvation are healthy for Americans. They allow us to experience the future we’re bringing to present lands, to feel a similar sensation and be provoked by philosophical questions of our own actions. Because the fact is, Americans will need this experience some day.

US drone dominance, like most military advances, won’t last forever. Other nations are following close behind in research and development - give the global market 50 years to develop. Some time in the distant future, Americans could find themselves in the same position Afghans and Pakistanis do today.

And we might find ourselves wishing we could go back in time.


  1. That's not the scary part. The scary part is when you think about what happens when the hackers get control of these drones. Translate all the bot networks of today into bot war machines and you've got a real nightmare.

  2. Too many scary parts to outline at once. Suffice to say, hackers usually try to build what they hack.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.