Thursday, December 5, 2013

Drone Attacks on Civilians, on Civilization

American drone warfare policy is terrifying stuff.

In their earliest incarnations, drones were targets.  They were pilotless aircraft that could be safely fired upon by actual soldiers and pilots, a moving, challenging target that would be harder to hit than some plywood cutout propped up on a hillside or sliding along a wire across a valley.  Very early drones were sometimes even harder to hit than the real thing, being very small and fast for their size.  Their entire raison d'etre was to make actual fighters more effective.

But that isn't even the thrust of this post.

Now Jeff Bezos, multi-gazillionaire founder of Amazon and honest-to-goodness techie, wants to put drones in the air, delivering Amazon purchases to customers.  It's a brilliant concept on the face of it, and a strong testament to the technological developments that make such a thing possible.  But I think this is an  incredibly bad idea.  Here are a few reasons why:

Even unarmed drones can kill you.  Just because it's small doesn't mean Amazon's flying robopostman is safe.  Maybe it isn't big enough to take off the top of your head - I bet it's big enough to take off some of your fingers...or your child's.  How badly do you want that brand new multifunction universal remote control to risk that?  Wait a day while an actual delivery person conveys it to you.

Tech is vulnerable.  Yet another electronic gadget - in this case, one that you aren't even allowed to play with, only watch and admire as it brings you your amazing new multifunction universal remote control - is yet another opportunity for hackers to break in, take control, and wreak some damage.  It's bad enough when hackers can get into your computer and do stuff with your personal credit ratings.  How much worse will it be when the technobastards can actually wreck stuff with a flying lawnmower?  And let me point out that the linked article is two years old.  You can bet they've developed more tools for breaking into vehicle systems.  And just imagine if an enemy entity decided to take over a slew of Amazon drones, load them with their very own, and likely rather dangerous, payloads and send them to new destinations?  Is it necessary to make it that easy for the bad guys to hurt us?

 It isn't just vulnerable to hackers:

The drones as envisioned aren't especially fast and fly in straight lines.  I'm a pretty good shot at near- to medium-range and could easily take out a delivery drone with nothing more lethal than a pellet gun.  Your multifunctional universal remote control is now mine. 

It isn't pretty.
I'd rather watch starlings flying than see one of these flitting through my neighborhood.  And to put that in perspective, I effing hate starlings and blast them when I see them at my bird feeders.  With a pellet gun.

While we're on the subject of birds, how much would you like to bet one of these will occasionally be attacked and brought down by a bird?  Many species are aggressively territorial and will go after an invader.  And not only will the load go down, the whirling blades will almost certainly injure the bird, too.  Everybody, including you, loses.  Your multifunctional universal remote control is lost behind enemy lines.

Lastly, it aggravates an already-growing trend of self-importance in American society.  I mean, it's just a remote control.  It's just a book.  It's just a necklace, a memory card for your computer, it's just a thing.  You can afford to wait for it, whatever it is.  You don't need it.  You need air, water, food, shelter.  You need support of people around you and governmental representation you can trust.  You don't need another thing delivered that much more quickly.  Instant gratification is a terrible letdown in the long run.  It trains you to be unable to appreciate delayed gratification, and in the larger scheme of the entire world, gratification is more often delayed than it is instant.

Nothing is so important that we need to pollute the view with ugly flying boxes conveying yet more optional stuff.  Let's step back and take another look at whether this idea is a good one.

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