Recently, many companies have been competing to dominate the drone industry because drones could very well be the future of the retail industry. Two of such companies are Google and Amazon. Imagine if Amazon were to acquire the technology to deliver a product to your door step 30 minutes after you hit the “submit order” button. Now imagine if that same drone technology could be used to spy on or even kill you. Drone technology is becoming cheaper and more accessible all the time. 3D printers can now produce military grade drones for around a $2,500.
Over 70 countries are currently developing drone technology. Most of this drone technology is used by governments for war purposes using remotely piloted drones. By remotely piloted, I mean a human has control over the decision making processes such as where the drone goes, what the drone focuses its attention on, and for military purposes, what the drone kills. Daniel Suarez, in the Ted Talk: The Kill Decision Shouldn’t be going to a Robot, spoke on the way drone technology has moved away from humans having all the decision making power, to humans having most of the decision making power and towards humans having some of the decision making power. He didn’t talk about Terminator-esque robots taking over the world in some Skynet-like future. He spoke about something nearly as scary and much more real: plausible deniability. Due to 3D printing, successful drone design will be copied by random people making the possibility of anonymous war very possible. How can we combat terrorism when we cannot identify the terrorists? Drones can attack and those attacks will potentially never be traced back to the attacker.
Electronic jamming of drones means that drones are going to be disconnected from their pilots more and more frequently as this process is used more frequently. This means the decisions humans make for the drones now are going to be programmed into the drone in order to complete missions. This could mean drones identifying and eliminating their targets. This could mean removing the little humanity that is left in war.
Who’s more at risk: the citizens of developing countries with little technology and therefore little defense against this kind of technology or citizens of high tech societies? Suarez argues the citizens of high-tech societies are more at risk because of data. Data makes humans today more visible to machines than any people in history. The same technology we use to target consumer markets, drones could use to target people. A repressive government might simply remove the people they don’t want to have around. Movements advocating for change could be identified earlier and taken out quicker and these change policy would be stopped before they ever even begin. Freedom of speech could be suppressed easier than ever before. Humans have been trending toward democracy over the last few millennia, however, could drone technology alter that trend?
Drone technology exists now and drones are beginning to make decisions without human input. How do we regulate technology that can be developed in anyone’s garage?