July 21, 2015

Will drones and robot soldiers send the drill sergeants home?

Sir, I refer to Geoff Dyer’s interesting “Robot Soldiers”, FT Magazine July 18.

It is a comprehensive article, except for, like with drones, robots also present challenges to the national psychic of its users. I refer concretely to the possibility of a diminishing fighting spirit of the humans hiding behind drones and robots. And what about in comparison to the fighting spirit of others who cannot do so? What if these others, by for instance a cyber attack, manage to neutralize the drones and robots and it then comes down to a real man to man struggle? 

And I am not joking when I say that it is hard to visualize the same type of national good feelings with homecoming parades and memorials, when scientists and mechanical engineers have done the real fighting.

Also, when Dyer quotes Mary Cummings with “I don’t think we have enough competent people within the government to be able to set up acquisition programmes for autonomous weapons or anything robotic,” it makes one think about what will be more important for the advancement of a military career in the future, knowledge about drones and robots, or knowledge about your men… and the implications of that. Will the traditional drill sergeant just become a figure featured in History Channel documentaries?

I must confess though that what keeps me coming back to these issues is that this year 70 years ago, my father was freed from a concentration camp in Germany by courageous American boots on the ground… not by drones or robots. And the question that keeps popping up it my mind is; will American or other soldiers still have what it takes to free other future imprisoned fathers, if need be?

@PerKurowski

Here is the letter that was published in FT Magazine on August 1st.

Like drones, robots also present challenges to the national psyche of their users (“Robot soldiers”, July 18/19) – the possibility of a diminishing human fighting spirit hiding behind drones and robots.

I think it is hard to visualize 
the same type of national “good feeling”, with homecoming parades and memorials, when scientists and mechanical engineers have done the real fighting. And what will be more important for the advancement of a military career in the future: knowledge about robots or knowledge about your men?

Will the traditional drill sergeant just become a figure featured in History channel documentaries?

What keeps me coming back
 to these issues is that 70 years 
ago my father was freed from a concentration camp in Germany by courageous American boots on the ground... not by drones or robots.

Per Kurowski
 Rockville, Maryland, US