Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Technology and humanity:a few thoughts

In looking at the Arts & Letters Daily site, (recommended by Gordon F. and very good) I encountered an article by P.W. Singer called Robots at War:The New Battlefield,, in which the developing use of new technologies in war is considered. About two thirds of the way through there is a mention of the growth of 'war porn', this being the use of mobile phones etc to take pictures of the conflict and, in particular, the wounding and death of the enemy, and the posting of these images on Internet sites.
I can't help but feel that this is disturbing and while I can't find the exact words to give my thoughts on the matter it feels like a step along the path to dehumanising conflict and make it more of a video game than a harsh aspect of reality. I think Sassoon wrote words about WW1 to the effect that 'After 2,ooo years of saying Mass/We've got as far as poison gas' but after 60(?) years of developing computing and related technologies how far have we gone down the line of taking the human aspect out of war and making it an acceptable game?
Whilst there are also underlying issues of saying that the technology is being used to reduce casualties doesn't the other side of this lie in that it is being used to maximise casualties on the part of the opposition? I remember arguments to the effect that war has often driven the development of technologies but how can technology be used to take away the need for war and its acceptability? ( In this I am remembering the work of Alan Turing etc and the early developments of computing.) If the television played a key part in the American attitude to the war in Vietman what role is the mobile phone taking in current conflict where free reporting is not allowed? Should we now be considering the role of the Internet and not just the television? Certainly its role in the way it has been used by terrorists etc. has been reported but shouldn't its counterpart also be considered and not simply its role in the development of the dehumanising of suicide bombers?
The article has raised many thoughts but I can see few answers to some of the issues raised and while I realise that there has always been a dehumanising effect on the participants in conflict but is technology allowing that to affect greater numbers of people and making the unacceptable acceptable to all sides involved?

1 comment:

Heather said...

What a vile use of technology :( I fear you are correct.