Friday, 16 November 2012

Of Drones, ethics, and remote working

A recent topic of ethical debate relates to the use of military drones. As well as the current issues we should consider what the future might have in store for us, and I have outlined below a couple of potential ethical issues relating to the remote operation of drones.

Blurring Training and Operations
We are nearing a point where the experience of a training simulation will be more or less indistinguishable to an actual operation. Because operation of a drone is mediated via a software interface it should soon be possible to have the fidelity of the training software to match that of an effective operational human-drone interface. This could be achieved by increases in the fidelity of the training simulation to match the operational experience, or via lowering the fidelity of the operational experience to match the training experience. 'Real life' fidelity and information feeds are not required to effectively pilot a drone, and indeed abstracted interface elements may even be beneficial. At this point, due to the remote nature of operating drones, it may be possible to insert real operations into a series of training runs without the operator even knowing. As far as the operator is concerned they could be practicing a scenario, and not realise they have been swapped over to the real thing.

Outsourced Warriors
Once the scenario outlined above becomes possible, we could potentially see outsourced warfighting to gamers. I mean this in two senses. The first that suitable games available to the general public could be used to train relevant warfighting skills into to the general populace. In the second sense actual operations could be outsourced into gaming networks, such that players are usually playing a simulated game but every so often (knowingly or unknowingly) they are performing actual missions.

By the time we get to the point where the scenarios outlined above could be reality it may be a moot point anyway; the machines might be better off executing missions without us.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Products that I want #5: my train detector

An app that works out what train you are on and tells you its ETA for each stop.

This of course highlights an item of information poverty related to train journeys.