The X-47B: Killing without ‘Scruple or Conscience’ (News, Switzerland)
Without getting into the politics, I want to express my personal solidarity with all of those, who through no fault of their own, have been affected by the massacre in Colorado yesterday. It is so frustrating to witness events like this and to have the unpleasant sense that nothing will be done beyond the expression of comforting words for the dead. I hope we can all come together and try to address the causes of this and similar events that seem to plague our nation more than almost any other developed country. We are following the global reaction.
And with a headline like, ‘Killing without Scruple or Conscience’, one might think this story is about the Colorado shootings. It is not. It is about the ramifications of America’s newest unmanned aerial vehicle. For Switzerland’s News, columnist Patrik Etschmayer points out that these craft are not drones controlled by human beings on the ground, but robots that operate on their own.
For the News, Patrik Etschmayer writes in part:
Are you familiar with the X-47B? You don’t really have to be, but next year, the aircraft, which seems like something out of a science fiction movie, will usher in a new era in flight, if it successfully performs one of the most difficult landing maneuvers there is – and chances are good that it will – of landing on an aircraft carrier. There will be no pilot on board and no one will steer or guide the aircraft by remote control. The landing, like the initial takeoff, will be completely autonomous, with the aircraft kanding according to information relayed to it by flight deck personnel. And if necessary, it will even abort the landing and try again. That is why the X-47B will not be a drone, although the aircraft has become known as such.
One of the dystopian scenarios that have likely become a permanent fixture of popular culture is the opening scene of Terminator 2, in which murderous robots – humanoid, but as rolling tanks or planes – hunt down their human opponents. While it probably won’t come to that, it is quite possible that in 20 years time, people will be systematically killed off by unmanned machines – as opposed to remote-controlled drones, in which case there is still a person, albeit at a great distance, behind the control stick and at the trigger.
Of course, sooner or later, the opponent will upgrade as well. But that does little to improve the situation. During ground attacks, civilians will suffer the greatest loss of life and blood just as they do today. Meanwhile, that grisly factor that continues to force governments to persist in their pursuit of peace will be eliminated: the coffins of fallen soldiers. And since these are also important factors when it comes to NOT starting a war, it seems likely that the “offspring” of this rather ugly experimental aircraft will greatly reduce the inhibitions of politicians when it comes to launching a conflict.
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