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Is there really a difference between a robot and soldier making a kill?

Special Forces are precise weapons to kill. Soldiers receive orders from someone else on the kill and they carry out the mission. Wouldn't you agree that human soldier is this sense is like a robot?

Topics: Robot warfare

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    Nov 17 2013: A soldier is, in a sense, an automaton whilst in combat, but he is still a human with human sensibilities. Those sensibilities are what make war 'fair'.

    Killing people from the comfort of a cosy robot control room would be similar to a combat video game. This environment would be several steps removed from any sense of reality involved with taking people's actual lives. There would be less reason to question one's morality, if the enemy is just a faceless two-dimensional blur on a computer monitor.

    Also a soldier making a kill by controlling a robot is probably less likely to suffer PTSD, post combat. While that may sound like an advantage, isn't it also true that PTSD is a barometer of personal morality in warfare? Is PTSD a kind of 'rite of passage' from the automaton mentality of face-to-face combat, back to the morality of civilian life?

    If all sense of morality and reality is removed, then warfare will become just a grotesque game for the nation who can afford remotely-controlled killer robots - but very, very real and a serious offence on the collective morality of those who can't afford it.

    What can the losing nation possibly do against such unfairness? Resorting to terrorism would be one way...
    • Nov 17 2013: First off, if you're fighting fair, you're doing it wrong. You should be grasping for every possible advantage--fighting fair is how chivalrous idiots get themselves killed.

      Second, it should be noted that fighting via remote, isn't very much like a video game. The biggest difference is probably that its no fun at all (long shifts consisting mostly of tedium are the order of the day), and the second is that the operator is fully aware that he's looking through a camera at the real world.

      Finally, PTSD isn't a measure of morality, its a psychological disorder that results from trauma. Actual connection to the sufferer's morality is questionable at best--the best and worst men can suffer from it, and a lucky few are inexplicably immunized to it (without being sociopaths, usually).
      Also, recent studies show that drone pilots seem to suffer from PTSD about as often and about as bad as regular combat pilots doing similar jobs (only in the aircraft). They're perfectly aware that what they're doing isn't a video game, and it shows. Fear of death isn't the only thing that traumatizes a soldier; killing and witnessing the the horrors of war typically have a more profound effect.
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        Nov 17 2013: Absolutely Nadav the sneakiest and dirtiest fighter invariably has the high ground in any conflict, a scenario we see played out time and time again in politics. But I would go even further to say that fair is myth in any context and is a concept perpetrated by those who cannot cope with reality.
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          Nov 18 2013: So as a general point, being 'sneaky and dirty' is a handy blueprint to shape one's success in life, is it?

          Fighting dirty is superior to fairness?

          What kind of society do you hope for?

          Can you please define what you consider 'reality' to be William?
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        Nov 17 2013: It's the "grasping of every possible advantage" of the underdogs that gives rise to the drawn-out insidiousness of terrorism long after the conflict has ended in a war that is technologically one-sided. If they have the burning desire to defend the paltry remnants of what they've got left, then terrorism is probably one of the last desperate blows remaining.

        Do I understand you correctly that you are happy that a poor soldier is enduring the indignity of "tedium" in a warm control centre, while someone at the other end is getting blown to bits trying to defend their family and their culture against overwhelming odds?

        And I'm only too aware of what PTSD is thanks, and what you omitted to read in my post is that I said it is a possible barometer of morality in war - not a measure. Quite different. Many of the former servicemen I've met say that their problems in readjusting to civilian life lie in the sense of unfairness in killing and injuring poorly defended people with vastly superior weapons and training. That kind of guilt is hard-wired to innate morality, natural justice and fairness.

        I have yet to be convinced that an electronic two dimensional representation of reality happening thousands of miles away is as traumatic as proximal experiences of explosions and bloodshed "on the ground". If you have any researched evidence of such comparisons, then I'd be very interested to see it.
        • Nov 18 2013: "Do I understand you correctly that you are happy that a poor soldier is enduring the indignity of "tedium" in a warm control centre, while someone at the other end is getting blown to bits trying to defend their family and their culture against overwhelming odds?"

          Yes, very much so, and let me explain why.
          In the best of circumstances, war is a lopsided event. One side is much stronger than the other, crushes it swiftly and efficiently, and then the war can be over. When things are nice and "fair", wars drag on for years on end as neither side can gain a significant advantage, yet refuses to pull out due to a combination of sunk cost fallacy, risk of loosing face, and there probably being an objective to achieve they went to war over to begin with that wasn't accomplished yet.

          As for trauma to the soldiers themselves, drone and aircraft pilots have similar rates of it. This makes sense, as a pilot isn't exactly "on the ground". The air force has a long history of being the most "detached" of the service branches, flying high over battlefields without setting a foot there. The traumatic difference between a pilot and a drone pilot is that one isn't afraid of being shot down, that's it. The same is probably true for naval unmanned systems.
          Whether that will translate for remote controlled ground forces on the other hand, is harder to say. Ground warfare is by its nature the messiest of the three, and physical removal from it may have a more significant psychological effect.

          Drones also make terrorists and guerrilla groups much less effective, as those groups rely on inflicting enough casualties to cause political pressure. With drones, you can fight them without raising the body count.
          Terrorists find the tactic of drones just as bad as NATO forces find IEDs, for many the same reasons. You can't fight back; which only serves to turn it into a better weapon. Drones are if anything worse--the buggers actively seek you out. Helps break the enemy's resolve.

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