Book review: Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, by P. W. Singer.
This book covers a wide range of topics related to robotics and war. The author put a good deal of thought into what topics we ought to pay attention to, but provides few answers that will tell us how to avoid problems. The style is entertaining. That doesn’t necessarily interfere with the substance, but I have some suspicions that the style influenced the author to be a bit more superficial than he ought to be.
I’m disappointed by his three-paragraph treatment of EMP risks. He understands that EMPs could cause major problems, but he failed to find any of the ideas people have about mitigating the risk.
With some lesser-known risks, the attention he provides may be helpful at reducing the danger. For instance, he identifies overconfidence as an important cause of war, and points out that the hype often created by designers of futuristic devices such as robots can cause leaders to overestimate their military value. This ought to be repeated widely enough that leaders will be aware of the danger.
He expresses some interesting concerns about how unmanned vehicles blur the lines between soldiers in battle and innocent civilians. Is a civilian technician who is actively working on an autonomous vehicle that is about to engage in hostile action against an enemy an ‘illegal combatant’? Does a pilot walking to work in Nevada to pilot a drone that will drop bombs in Afghanistan a military target?