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When Robotic Warfare Goes Wrong: Do We Need New Rules of Combat?

Complete video at: In an era of high tech weaponry engaged on front lines around the globe, author P.W. Singer discusses the need to rethink the antiquated rules of war from 1949's Geneva Convention. Should the global community be looking to Star Trek's Prime Directive for inspiration? ----- The rate of technological change over the last century has been exponential. According to Moore's Law, computing power has doubled for the price every two years, a trend set to continue or even accelerate. It's a trend that's seen robotics take centre stage in the theatre of war -- and in some cases, saved many lives. But according to political scientist P. W. Singer, it may be taking us into the ultimate of ethical grey areas. Singer claims "YouTube wars," fought by remote consoles thousands of kilometres away from the battlelines, have profoundly compromised the gravitas that once accompanied the horrors of warfare. For example, unmanned squadrons of "Predator Drones" currently carry out five times the airstrikes in Pakistan that were waged on Kosovo ten years ago. But, as Singer points out, this isn't actually referred to as a "war." As the military becomes increasingly disconnected from the battles they are waging, Singer checks up on the cost to the operators and the targets of our newest "killer apps" -- the unmanned robot armies of the twenty-first century. Peter W. Singer was speaking to the Lowy Institute's Rory Medcalf at the Sydney Opera House for the 2010 Festival of Dangerous Ideas. - Australian Broadcasting Corporation Peter Warren Singer is Senior Fellow and Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution. He is the youngest scholar named Senior Fellow in Brookings's 90-year history. Dr. Singer is considered one of the world's leading experts on changes in 21st century warfare. He was named by the President to Joint Forces Command's Transformation Advisory Group. He has written for the full range of major media and journals, including the Boston Globe, L.A. Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Current History, Survival, International Security, Parameters, Weltpolitik, and the World Policy Journal. Dr. Singer's most recent book, Wired for War (Penguin, 2009), looks at the implications of robotics and other new technologies for war, politics, ethics, and law in the 21st century.
Length: 04:15


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