« | Home | »

By far nowhere near

Tags: | |

Unmanned is the latest release from the Italian game designers Molleindustria, who aim to ‘free video games from the dictatorship of entertainment’. Their other productions include Phone Story, ‘an educational game about the dark side of your favourite smart phone’: you have to use armed guards to threaten Coltan miners in central Africa to increase their productivity and catch suicidal Chinese factory workers in giant nets. It isn’t available from the iPhone app store.

Unmanned, rendered in blocky, lo-fi graphics, examines a day in the life of a disaffected suburban drone pilot. You wake from a strange dream, shave, and drive to work through the Nevada desert, where you fly your drone and flirt with your co-pilot. You decide whether or not to kill a terrorist before taking a break to call your wife and smoke a cigarette. After work you go home and play shoot ’em ups with your Ritalin-addled son. Along the way you are awarded medals for ‘outstanding introspection’ or ‘legion of karaoke commendation’. The gameplay is numbingly repetitive: shaving, driving, smoking and blowing up suspected terrorists are all conducted by taps or mouse-clicks on a split screen.
 
So far, so alienating. But Molleindustria’s satire is lagging behind reality: the US army’s Air Education and Training Command announced in 2010 that it was developing a ‘Predator/Reaper simulation’ – a video game – ‘to encourage recruits to consider the RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) career field’.
 
There’s no need to join the army to experience the thrills of the RPA revolution. Now you can build a drone of your own from an online kit. Last year protestors in Poland launched a DIY quadcopter to spy on riot police. In the Financial Times last month Francis Fukuyama announced that he ‘had to have my own drone after hearing about the US army’s RQ-11 Raven, made by a company called AeroVironment’:
 

The technology is not standing still. Down the road are insect-sized drones that could be mistaken for a housefly or spider, which could slip in under a door-sill to record conversations, take photos or even inject a lethal toxin into an unsuspecting victim… Further into the future are nanobots, particle-sized robots that could enter people’s blood streams or lungs.

 
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania meanwhile have designed drones that can imitate the swarm behaviour of birds or insects, and play the James Bond theme while they’re at it.

But RPA operatives are keen to stress that they at least don’t treat their jobs flippantly. In an interview in Der Spiegel a drone pilot said:

Killing someone with an RPA is not different than with an F-15. It’s easy to think that, to fall down that trap. We’re well aware that if you push that button somebody can go away. It’s not a video game. You take it very seriously. It’s by far nowhere near a video game.

Comments on “By far nowhere near”

  1. outofdate says:

    A soldier is also just a remote-controlled weapon, it’s just slow, unreliable and has to be laboriously dehumanised at boot camp to do the same job less efficiently. I don’t think manly valour or lack of it is really the issue.

  2. George Hoffman says:

    I read an interesting article recently where these drone techs are exhibiting symptoms of PTSD when they view the innocent civilians killed as collateral damage at the target sites.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • UncleShoutingSmut on Goodbye, Circumflex: Unfortunately this post is likely to leave readers with a very partial idea of what is going on. Firstly, there is no "edict": all that has happened i...
    • martyn94 on The Price of Everything: If it's a joke at anyone's expense, it's surely at the expense of any super-rich who take it seriously. I used to skim it occasionally as a diversion ...
    • mideastzebra on Swedish-Israeli Tensions: Avigdor Liberman was not foreign minister November 2015.
    • lars hakanson on Exit Cameron: Europe will for good reason rejoice when the UK elects to leave. The country has over the years provided nothing but obstacles to European integration...
    • Michael Schuller on Immigration Scandals: The Home Office is keen to be seen to be acting tough on immigration, although I'm not sure that the wider project has anything to do with real number...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement