DODGY DRONE STORY AT THE VOICE

Erik Baard regularly writes fascinating, tech-infused musings on the future for the Village Voice, among others. But his article in this week's Voice is somewhere between dishonest and just plain silly.He opens the story, "As American warfare has shifted from draftees to drones, science and the military in the United States have become inseparable. But some scientists are refusing to let their robots grow up to be killers."Cool premise, right? But there's a problem: all three of those clauses are questionable, at best.

1) As American warfare has shifted from draftees to drones... There are, maybe, a hundred or so drones currently deployed in Iraq. Compare that to 130,000 flesh-and-blood troops. Now tell me, just how much has American warfare shifted?2) Science and the military in the United States have become inseparable. "Since when was science not 'inseparable' from the military?" asks Defense Tech pal CT. "Hell, we wouldn't have half the science we do if not for military spending."3) But some scientists are refusing to let their robots grow up to be killers. Baard does find one researcher who's refusing to deal with the Pentagon. But that's it. In fact, Baard has three scientists saying this. The rest of his sources -- people like physics Nobelist Steven Weinberg -- say things like, "A lot of people did it [refused military money] 30 years ago during the Vietnam War, but I don't know of anyone doing that today."
One person does not make a trend. And Erik should know better than that.THERE'S MORE: The "notion that we wouldn't have half our science were it not for military funding is overblown," writes Defense Tech Dad -- and author of Laboratory Warriors : How Allied Science and Technology Tipped the Balance in World War II -- Tom Shachtman. "Science and the military became inseparable during World War II, when scientists in the US, GB, and other Allied nations realized that a military victory against the Axis was necessary if they and their science were going to survive."The alliance of science and the military and continued in the post-war period especially as scientists learned that the military would underwrite basic and far-out research, not only weapons and sensing equipment development."
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