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Wired for War
Cover of Wired for War
Wired for War
The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century
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P. W. Singer explores the great­est revolution in military affairs since the atom bomb: the dawn of robotic warfare
We are on the cusp of a massive shift in military technology that threatens to make real the stuff of I, Robot and The Terminator. Blending historical evidence with interviews of an amaz­ing cast of characters, Singer shows how technology is changing not just how wars are fought, but also the politics, economics, laws, and the ethics that surround war itself. Travelling from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to modern-day "skunk works" in the midst of suburbia, Wired for War will tantalise a wide readership, from military buffs to policy wonks to gearheads.
P. W. Singer explores the great­est revolution in military affairs since the atom bomb: the dawn of robotic warfare
We are on the cusp of a massive shift in military technology that threatens to make real the stuff of I, Robot and The Terminator. Blending historical evidence with interviews of an amaz­ing cast of characters, Singer shows how technology is changing not just how wars are fought, but also the politics, economics, laws, and the ethics that surround war itself. Travelling from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to modern-day "skunk works" in the midst of suburbia, Wired for War will tantalise a wide readership, from military buffs to policy wonks to gearheads.
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    WHY A BOOK ON ROBOTS AND WAR?

    Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.

    —ISAAC ASIMOV

    Because robots are frakin' cool.

    That's the short answer to why someone would spend four years researching and writing a book on new technologies and war. The long answer is a bit more complex.

    As my family will surely attest, I was a bit of an odd kid. All kids develop their hobbies and even fixations, be it baseball cards or Barbie dolls. Indeed, I have yet to meet a six-year-old boy who did not have an encyclopedic knowledge of all things dinosaur. For me growing up, it was war. I could be more polite and say military history, but it was really just war. In saying the same about his childhood, the great historian John Keegan wrote, "It is not a phrase to be written, still less spoken with any complacency." But it is true nonetheless.

    Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that the generations before me had all served in the military. They left several lifetimes' worth of artifacts hidden around the house for me to pilfer and play with, whether it was my dad's old military medals and unit insignia, which I would take out and pin to my soccer jersey, or the model of the F-4 Phantom jet fighter that my uncle had flown over Vietnam, which I would run up and down the stairs on its missions to bomb Legoland.

    But the greatest treasure trove of all was at my grandparents' house. My grandfather passed away when I was six, too young to remember him as much more than the kindly man whom we would visit at the nursing home. But I think he may have influenced this aspect of me the most.

    Chalmers Rankin Carr, forever just "Granddaddy" to me, was a U.S. Navy captain who served in World War II. Like all those from what we now call "the Greatest Generation," he was one of the giants who saved the world. Almost every family gathering would include some tale from his or my grandmother's ("Maw Maw" to us grandkids) experiences at war or on the home front.

    It's almost a cliché to say, but the one that stands out is the Pearl Harbor story; although, as with all things in my family, it comes with a twist. On December 7, 1941, my grandfather was serving in the Pacific Fleet on a navy transport ship. For three months after the Pearl Harbor attack, the family didn't hear any word from him and worried for the worst. When his ship finally came back to port (it had actually sailed out of Pearl Harbor just two days before the attack), he immediately called home to tell his wife (my grandmother) and the rest of his family that he was okay. There were only two problems: he had called collect, and that side of my family is Scotch-Irish. No one would accept the charges. While my grandfather cursed the phone operator's ear off, in the way that only a sailor can, on the other end the family explained to the operator that since he was calling, he must be alive. So there was no reason to waste money on such a luxury as a long-distance phone call.

    Granddaddy's study was filled with volume after volume of great books, on everything from the history of the U.S. Navy to biographies of Civil War generals. I would often sneak off to this room, pull out one of the volumes, and lose myself in the past. These books shaped me then and stay with me now. One of my most prized possessions is an original-edition 1939 Jane's Fighting Ships that my grandfather received as a gift from a Royal Navy officer, for being part of the crew that shipped a Lend-Lease destroyer to the Brits. As I type these very words, it peers down at me from the shelf above my computer.

    My reading fare...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 17, 2008
    Brookings Institute fellow Singer (Children at War
    ) believes that “we resist trying to research and understand change” in the making of war. Robotics promises to be the most comprehensive instrument of change in war since the introduction of gunpowder. Beginning with a brief and useful survey of robotics, Singer discusses its military applications during WWII, the arming and autonomy of robots at the turn of the century, and the broad influence of robotics on near-future battlefields. How, for example, can rules of engagement for unmanned autonomous machines be created and enforced? Can an artificial intelligence commit a war crime? Arguably more significant is Singer’s provocative case that war itself will be redefined as technology creates increasing physical and emotional distance from combat. As robotics diminishes war’s risks the technology diminishes as well the higher purposes traditionally used to justify it. Might that reduce humanity’s propensity for war making? Or will robotics make war less humane by making it less human? Singer has more questions than answers—but it is difficult to challenge his concluding admonition to question and study the technologies of military robotics—while the chance remains.

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The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century
P. W. Singer
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