Lieutenant General David Poythress and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution Peter Warren Singer addressed the “revolution” that warfare is undergoing in the Student Government Association’s annual Classroom on the Quad.
Due to weather conditions, the location of the event, which focused on “The Future of Military Service,” was moved to the Tull Auditorium in the Emory School of Law.
Singer, an author and expert in 21st century warfare who works at non-profit policy organization Brookings Institution, delivered the keynote address Wednesday evening, focusing on the prominent role he feels robotics plays in warfare.
“These are the kinds of things we only used to talk about in scientific
conventions that now need to be talked about in places of learning,” Singer said.
He said warfare is enduring a “robot revolution,” which causes people to question what proper war conduct should be.
Singer said he believes the United States will not be the only country relying on robotics in the future, though he said the United States is ahead in military robotics right now. Singer explained that there are 43 other countries, including Pakistan and China, that are working to implement
robotics into warfare right now.
In terms of terrorism, Singer hypothesized that such advanced technology will create opportunities for more lethal attacks.
With clips of combat footage already surfacing on the Internet, Singer said the future of war will be what he called a “YouTube War”.
“The ability to download battle clips to your iPhone is turning war into a form of entertainment,” he said. “We are watching the ESPN Sports Zone version of war.”
The phrase “going to war” will have a new connotation, as high-tech weapons will force fewer soldiers to actually leave home and fight, Singer said. He coined the term “cubicle warriors” to describe the drone pilots that will monitor drones instead of participating in combat on the battlefield.
Singer raised the question of whether or not robots will make war crimes more likely. Because robots lack the emotions that often lead people to commit war crimes, Singer said, the number of war crimes may decrease. On the other hand, he acknowledged that a robot’s lack of guilt can increase the likelihood of war crimes.
“A robot looks at a grandma in a wheelchair the same way it looks at a T80 tank,” Singer said.
Singer urged the audience to think critically about the role technology should play in warfare. “Is it our machines or us who’s wired for war?” he asked.
In the speech that preceded, Poythress (’67L) retired Georgia State Adjutant General who is running for governor of Georgia for 2010, also discussed the fact that the invention of more complex, deadly weapons is making warfare much more “sophisticated."
”The military is seeking out people who are much more intellectually capable,” he said.
His speech concentrated on the effects of volunteer militia on the future of military service in the United States. Having served in the Vietnam War, Poythress said military service was a “right of passage” for American males prior to 1972.
“Our country has been a volunteer militia country from day one,” Poythress said.
Poythress explained that many members of the military do not believe bringing back the draft would be a good idea.
“The military today is an organization of people who wish to be there,” he said. “You really don’t want people there that don’t wish to be there.”
Military recruitment is at an all-time high, according to Poythress, who said the military has actually had to turn down volunteers.
“Should we be concerned that our military tends to be a conforming type of group that attracts a certain type of personality?” Poythress asked.
Classroom on the Quad, which the Student Government Association (SGA) organized, also featured a high school color guard performance, an academic panel on the after-effects of War, a student discussion about national service, and a panel comprised of alumni, faculty and current students who are veterans of the armed forces.
— Contact Molly Davis