An open letter to National Public Radio:
Something was very very wrong with your program.
I was fully prepared to participate in the discussion conducted on "Talk of the Nation" on NPR this past Tuesday, March 30 concerning Drone Warfare. But I just couldn’t listen after the first fifteen minutes. It is profoundly depressing to hear so called "experts" dance all around with smoke and mirrors when asked reasonable questions. Further, many reasonable questions were never asked or the host refused to follow up the non answers with any probing. I heard "answers" that evoked apocryphal and anecdotal digressions ("Oh! my friend wasn’t killed because he got to use a robot to kill the other guy." What about the other guy that got killed? How positive was his experience?) No one addressed the concept of "Thou shalt not kill." I’m an atheist and I adhere to that concept. When asked about the "collateral fatalities" [dead innocents], the talking heads mouthed something about the answer being "Highly Classified" and Congressional Authorization; I guess that is justification for killing the "wrong" people. The Iraq War has inured us to the concept of killing "suspected enemies". Now we’re even doing it with drones. What next, autonomous robots?
Now comes the part where you get to write me off as a crackpot: Sixty years ago, Assac Azimov imagined a world where humans and manufactured human substitutes (robots or drones) were cohabitants. He understood that given human nature, (where we can’t stop killing each other in very personal ways) that in order for civilization to continue to exist; at least the robots needed to obey "Thou shalt not kill". He proposed the three laws of robotics to protect the humans from other humans using robots as weapons. He instilled the robots with better ethics than we humans can manage.
The transition from prosthesis to drone to robot is already occurring around us and there is no sign that those constructing these transitional forms nor our representatives in Government are even thinking about the consequences of their actions. The assumption seems to be that only OUR side is going to have these weapons (how has that worked out so far in the history of warfare)? I recently read an OP ED piece in the Washington Post news written by a United States Army general stating that these "super soldiers" will make war obsolete! Just like the sword, the bow and arrow and the machine gun and the atom bomb.
If NPR is one of the best forums for debate of serious issues (and I believe that it is) and it can’t do any better than the recent program; then we are all truly and surely damned.