Peter Singer at Drone U: Drones won't seem "alien" long

Slate posts a podcast of the first lecture at the new Drone U, "a public education platform focused on the social, legal, and philosophical implications of drone technology" conducted in partnership with the New America Foundation.  The first lecture is by P.W. Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution.

Here's Slate's summary:

As Singer discusses, the current debate around drones is comparable to the initial challenges posed by the introduction of the car in 1900. This technology brought strange new questions, such as how to protect people from them. The first fine for “speeding” came just a few years later, when a man was arrested for endangering the lives and property of pedestrians in downtown Jacksonville, Fla. He had exceeded the 6 mile per hour speed limit. “Horseless carriages” were a technology that once seemed alien much like unmanned aerial systems do today.

When we think about technologies like the Predator or Packbot, we need to remember that they are just the first generation—the Model T Fords and Wright Flyers. We are still at the “horseless” stage of this technology. Describing these technologies as “unmanned system” means we are focused on what they are not, rather than wrestling with what they truly are.

What the opening of the civilian airspace will do to robotics is akin to what the Internet did to desktop computing. Revolutionary technologies force us to ask new questions about what is possible and consider things that weren’t conceivable a generation before. But they also force us to relook at what is proper. They raise issues of right and wrong that we didn’t have to wrestle with before. With robotics, issues on the technical side may ultimately be much easier to resolve than dilemmas that emerge from our human use of them.

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Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on July 12, 2013 at 3:09pm


A nice synopsis of where UAVs are now in relation to their future use in society and how we regulate their use to the benefit of society.



Comment by Mark Kellogg on July 12, 2013 at 11:13pm

Great point about the focus what they are "not", when it really should, and will be, on what they "are"...especially with the fun comparison of the "horseless" carriage to "unmanned" systems. 

In a discussion with a friend today the point was made that one could compare the general public's current view of "flying robots" to that of a tsunami in the open ocean, a slight ripple on the surface, but not visible yet is the tremendous churning energy  waiting for the shoreline to make it visible.  Even more fascinating is none of us can really predict where it will take us when the technology reaches a critical mass and truly emerges into society.


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