A New Domestic Threat: Drones in the Hands of Rebels, Robbers, and Madmen
January 23, 2018
Paul Buchheit / Common Dreams
As armed drones become cheaper, smarter, and more readily accessible, they could launch the modern armed revolution of the undervalued human being against the world's entrenched -- and previously inaccessible -- elites. Technologies needed to build autonomous weapons -- intelligent targeting algorithms, geo-location, facial recognition -- are already with us. While the 'good' people of the Earth may be targeted by terrorists, those at the top end of an unequal society may be targeted by revolutionaries.
Revolution by Drone
Will drones launch the modern
revolution of the undervalued human being?
Paul Buchheit / Common Dreams
The too-rapid evolution of intelligent machines,
with the ability to make decisions that can impact human life,
is bringing us closer to a man-made epidemic
that we won't be able to control.
(January 22, 2018) -- When average Americans were oppressed in the 18th century, they knew where the plutocrats lived, and they didn't have military-style police forces holding them back. The Stamp Act drove the New York masses to ransack the houses of Governor Cadwallader Colden and the British major who was pointing army artillery toward the local town.
Another mob looted the house of pro-English aristocrat Thomas Hutchinson, carrying away his fine furnishings and emptying his wine cellar in part of what the British called a "war of plunder" to take away the "distinction of rich and poor."
That doesn't happen today. The super-rich are safely ensconced in their gated estates with private security forces and 9-foot walls and surveillance systems and sniper posts. But now they have good reason to fear the future. We all do. The too-rapid evolution of intelligent machines, with the ability to make decisions that can impact human life, is bringing us closer to a man-made epidemic that we won't be able to control.
As armed drones become tinier and cheaper and smarter and more readily accessible, they could launch the modern revolution of the undervalued human being.
How Inequality Is Fomenting a Revolution
America's richest 25 million adults -- much less than 1% of the world's population -- accumulated over half of all global wealth gains over the past five years (about $19 trillion out of $38 trillion). [See story below -- EAW]
At the same time, America's poorest 50 million adults, with little household wealth and excessive debt, have become part of the world's poorest 10%.
As the surging stock market enriches a small fraction of the world, the victims of US wars keep getting poorer. Median wealth has PLUMMETED in Syria and Iran and Yemen. It has gone down by almost half in all of Africa. New generations of terrorists are emerging from the wreckage.
Enter the assassination drones
Oppressed people won't be advancing on the well-secured houses of the rich and powerful.
Instead, artificial intelligence (AI) may take the place of axes and torches. In a terror-filled scenario for the future, a tiny gnat-like micro-robotic creature, armed with a lethal explosive charge or an injectable poison, and programmed with facial recognition software that targets a single individual (even in disguise), may be released in the vicinity of that person and instructed to wait patiently, perhaps indefinitely if solar-charged, and to surreptitiously sweep in to the target's head to complete its deadly mission.
Silent and unseen, unidentifiable and untraceable, it hurries away to self-destruct in the final act of a perfect crime.
Real or Fake?
Mention of such killer drones can elicit responses of disbelief or ridicule. But it's happening. Technology, as we all know, moves faster than expected, each day creating new apps and concepts that hadn't been imagined just months before. The specifications for these drones are all available -- or soon to be available -- to any skilled tech enthusiast. And to anyone with deadly intentions.
Experts are divided on the prospect. Security expert Peter Lee says "It would be hugely costly to develop such selective killing capability for use on a mass scale -- certainly outside the capacity of terrorist organizations and, indeed, most military."
Lethal weapons expert Steve Wright counters, "The technologies needed to build such autonomous weapons -- intelligent targeting algorithms, geo-location, facial recognition -- are already with us . . . It won't take much to develop the technology." That's a frightening thought to most.
Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk and numerous tech leaders have called for a ban on autonomous weapons, saying they are "ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group . . .they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap."
The US military, not surprisingly, is busy developing AI for drone assassin missions to target the 'evil' enemies of government. Meanwhile, the 'good' people of the earth may be targeted by terrorists. And those at the bloated end of an unequal society may be targeted by revolutionaries.
What Should the Wealth-Takers Do?
They should be afraid, and they should realize that the deeply ingrained feelings of disrespect and anger engendered by inequality have to be addressed, soon.
Rational people don't want assassin drones to become a reality. The proposed bans on their usage are much like the biological weapons restrictions of the 1970s. But the US, China, and Russia are among the nations persisting in the development of these systems, ostensibly for "greater combat autonomy," but likely for more nefarious political purposes.
They won't be stopped. Technology simply doesn't go backwards.
A modern-day rogue's gallery is taking shape. For average Americans who feel oppressed in the 21st century, anonymity may turn out to be a blessing.
Paul Buchheit is a college teacher with formal training in language development and cognitive science. He is the founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, RappingHistory.org, PayUpNow.org), and the editor and main author of American Wars: Illusions and Realities (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.
Why Do They Hate Us? America Has Taken
Nearly 70% of the World's Wealth Gains Since 2012
Paul Buchheit / Common Dreams
(December 11, 2017) -- America's super-rich are taking not only from their own nation, but also from the rest of the world. Data from the 2017 Global Wealth Databook (GWD: Table 2-4) and various war reports help to explain why we're alienating people outside our borders.
From 2012 to 2017, global wealth increased by $37.7 trillion, and US wealth increased by $26 trillion. Thus, largely because of a surging stock market, our nation took nearly 70 percent of the entire global wealth gain over the past five years.
Based on their dominant share of US wealth, America's richest 10% -- much less than 1% of the world's adult population -- took over half the world's wealth gain in the past five years.
Wealth in the Volatile Middle East
Has DECLINED at the Same Time
It's not surprising that young men in the Middle East and Africa would harbor resentment against a country that takes the great majority of the wealth -- especially considering that the most troubled areas of the world have collectively lost wealth between 2012 and 2017. That's both average wealth and median wealth.
Although the GWD has limited data about individual nations in the Middle East and Africa, some is available. Median wealth has PLUMMETED in Syria and Iran and Yemen. It has gone down by almost half in all of Africa. Wealth levels are crashing in the areas of the world where we wage war.
We're Bombing Nations
That Aren't Terrorist Threats
An explosion jolted Basim awake, and he could see the night sky through the massive hole in his bombed-out Iraqi house.
"Mayada!" he screamed for his wife. No response from her, or from his daughter Tuqa . . .
In the hospital days later, Basim lifted his phone and looked at the smiling images of a wife and daughter he would never see again. He began to sob uncontrollably.
One would think that a nation monopolizing the world's new wealth would avoid alienating the victims of inequality. But it's just the opposite. The US dropped thousands of bombs on seven Middle Eastern and African countries in 2016. Estimates of civilian deaths by airwar monitoring groups surpass official Pentagon numbers by a wide margin.
For the desperate residents of Yemen, attacks by Saudi Arabia continue with American weapons, using American targeting data, and delivered by American jets. Power and water facilities have been destroyed. Supply lines have been cut. Hospitals have been bombed, and a cholera epidemic is raging out of control.
In Africa, the Pentagon is engaged in about 100 missions in 20 African countries. That includes Somalia, which has been the target of a wave of new US bombings in 2017, even though that country is one of the Middle-Eastern states which "are not serious terrorism risks," according to the Cato Institute.
The bombing campaign in Somalia is waged with no public debate or Congressional authorization. Since 2001 the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act has been used to justify deadly attacks on any newly feared potential enemy, under the guise of taking aggressive action on any nation that might have "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks" of 9/11.
Apology to the Troops
Big money interests have turned America into a financial machine, accumulating more and more tax-deferred wealth through the stock market, and using the media to frighten us with overblown terrorist threats.
At the same time, Americans are brainwashed into believing that we're forever fighting a war for freedom. But 'freedom' has become a distorted concept in our increasingly unequal nation. Young lives are put at risk to ensure that a few thousand American households are free to take most of the wealth.
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