Get Your Username & Password, It’s Time To Log In For War


By 2006, there were more than 2,500 IED (improvised explosive device) explosions each month, and were the leading cause of casualty amongst American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.  Wow.  What a way to start off, right?  That’s how PW Singer does it; just slaps you with some knowledge from the get-go.  Who is PW Singer? Mr. Singer is the director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution.  There, he researches what the future of war holds and foreign policy.  As a well-known writer of books and essays, he is able to link modern day events and news and comment on impacts of the future of military.


Back to the video.  Singer starts us off with a chilling “scene of war” and was immediately able to capture the attention of the audience.  He goes on to explain the growing importance of EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams.  Their ability to diffuse up to 2 IED’s a day puts a $50,000 bounty on their head.  That is incredible.  But seeing how important the enemy views them shows the path of warfare is heading towards less soldiers and more machines.  The idea of machines being in war has always been a staple of sci-fi thrillers and futuristic video games, but it is becoming a reality.  The idea of war is changing as we know it.  More and more drones are being deployed to do a foot soldiers job, and there seems to be a sort of distancing from the realities of war.  Singer seems to believe we are at a revolutionary period in warfare, much like the period of the atom bomb.  The experience and identity of a soldier is changing, and they are being referred to as “cubicle warriors.”  We went from thuggish men with a thirst for blood being the ultimate warrior, to that kid from your freshman hall who dominates Call Of Duty.  But how will this change war?


Singer had a chilling quote during his presentation: “When a robot dies, you don’t have to write a letter to its mother.”  That is a really heavy line.  Without soldiers, there are only broken “toys” in the line of duty.  When drones are ordered to carry out attacks, the act of war is way less personal and the mental and emotional toll from the murders carried out by machine is cushioned by the thousands of miles that separate the party.  Singer mentions there will be a new sort of mental and emotional situation that takes place.  Now, soldiers will be expected to “go to war” for 12 hours, and then head home to the wife and kids to eat a meal and talk about what SpongeBob did today.  The constant switch of emotions could lead to problems at home.  The other aspect of robotic warfare that will forever change is the concept of accountability.  Who is accountable for the actions of the machine?  Is it the man who gave the orders?  Is it the dude who controls the thing?  Is it the company that invents the technology?  I would argue all three of these parties feels less accountable for what happens at war than if they were there themselves.  This diffusion of accountability would make it easier to pull the trigger from thousands of miles away.  “You don’t have to convince a robot that they’ll get 72 virgins when they blow up.”  All it takes is one click from a room in Nevada and BOOM!  It seems easy and doesn’t seem like it would have the same effect as blowing something up on your own while you are there.  War will eventually evolve towards technology; it seems inevitable.  But how will it affect the world?  Will there be more or less causalities?  It is hard to say.  What is easy to say is that the US is at the front of technological advancements for warfare, but Singer wisely mentions that there is no real fixed position at the top of technological advancement.  We have to stay on top of technology if we want to maintain our strength as a country.  Not only will warfare change, but so will terrorism, and it is that idea that can get scary.  Strikes from anywhere are possible and it can be done by anyone at any moment.


So I leave you with the seemingly inevitable future of technological warfare.  What other aspects of our lives at home or at war do you feel will be affected by this revolutionary change towards technology?  What will the future soldier look like? Will we be able to protect ourselves domestically from foreign threats? Domestic threats?  Let me hear where you think the future of war is going and how we will be changed as a result.


5 thoughts on “Get Your Username & Password, It’s Time To Log In For War

  1. Wow, this is an awesome topic. If this guy came to campus, I would be there in a second. He provides valuable information about the future of war. Just thinking about how different war may be in the future is nerve wrecking. Are robots fighting robots? Or are robots fighitng people? This does also raise different moral questions that many people overlook. I agree that this lessens accountability because people would not be there to “pull the trigger.” This reminds me of the book “Ender’s Game” becuase in the end he discovers he was fighing the aliens during his trainings when he thought it was only a simulation. In the future, could war be mistaken for a video game?

    • When you said “robots fighting robots” it made my mind wander for a little and I began to think what if thats what war becomes? If there were minimal human casualties but a ton of metal wreckage on the battlefield, how would there ever be a winner? I guess the way to win the war would be to have enough money to continue creating bigger and better machines until your enemy runs out. Even then, I still feel like wars end because the human casualties are too much. Will it still take human lives for a side to decide they have lost the war? I just think the whole idea of war and who “wins” or how to surrender would have to change immensely if opponents only used drones.

  2. I talked about PW Singer as well and his ideas about how the future of warfare will pan out. Advancement in robotics is the future of warfare and making sure that our battlefields become less manned by U.S. soldiers and we can return more people home. I was astounded by all the stories of soldiers who wrote letters to the robotics companies thanking them for the service that their drones had done to make their lives more safe out on the battlefield. When he discusses Moor’s Law and how technology is becoming more advanced while maintaining its same size, I was blown away by how true it really was. Robots can make our lives easier, but most importantly is that they can bring our soldiers home safe, and that is what matters most.

  3. Technological warfare is always an interesting and exciting topic. It is kind of scary, too. I really liked the dramatic scenes and quotes that Singer used in his TED talk, because quite frankly, it is necessary. This isn’t Call of Duty, we can’t just press buttons and blow things up that will continually replenish—or can we?

    I have no military background, but I would imagine that in the battle of war, instincts and reacting to changing circumstances are crucial to success. With Singer explaining that technology is headed towards creating these robots, I am most interested in learning how they will capture the “human element.” That being said, like jch045 said above, I hope it is possible because bringing home soldiers and not having to sacrifice human lives for the purpose of war are top priorities.


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