Why Private-Owned Drones May Destroy The State Monopoly On Force
A drone is a tool in an entirely new category. People can’t automatically be assumed to understand even the short term implications of drones. Right now it is primarily state operators that are designing and implementing drones, and even rich and obsessively militarized hyper-powers such as the United States or China are finding out that a pervasive infrastructure of drones is not what it appears to be.
Drones are essentially like a new ecological system. Once you start implementing automated or robotized systems, the displacement simply does not stop. There are incentives to replace every facet of your goal realization system with more automation. It isn’t just a matter of changing bombing and refueling missions with equivalent drone operations. Before long, even the bombs carried by the drones will become de-facto interactive micro-drones. And that’s where the old metaphors break down.
At this moment, we use humans to do work in the world. All work related choices are constrained by the human physical frame, and by human necessity. That forces all societies in a very limited framework. If we decide to take out people from the hierarchy of needs and services, and replace them with initially equivalent automated entities, the new entities will have an important impact on the embedded supply and service chain in which they are introduced.
For example (and this is relevant to either drones or all forms of governmental, corporate or societal automation) introducing a new service checkout at McDonalds completely changes the essential nature of experience at McDonalds, to such a degree that it immediately endangers the essential business model of McDonalds. Turnover of staff achieves lightning speed and customer loyalty disintegrates. Likewise, if Amazon starts running package delivery through servicing drones, any number of start-ups can do the same and force rethinking why companies work and what they do.
The Drones Will Make Their Own Decisions
Staggered refueling with automated drones, which can make their own logistical choices based on tactical data in the area, will confound humans. Drones make decisions, based on the goals that have been programmed in their in their software. In other words, drones will make up their own minds. And you can be sure that the synthetic preferences of the drones will involve bypassing human authority or even relevance.
That has very serious implications for states. States are entities embedded in a large ecology of needs, services, and abilities, which exist by virtue of their ability to dictate terms. The primary function of the state has too often been to keep the relatively poor in a state of placid satisfaction, to cultivate stability for the relatively rich. In other words, the state exists primarily to maximize the interests of the powerful, using all available resources.
With drones (and automation in general) this equation almost immediately breaks down. Going beyond the fairly obvious conclusion that the currently emerging generations of automation will be very effective in irreversibly destroying jobs, there aren’t many political or financial incentives to retrain unemployed and functionally traumatized people in ways that benefit the actual stakeholders in society.
Also read: The Robots Are Coming to Take Your Job
Humans will not be considered in terms of function, profit or loyalty – but in terms of costs, hassle and potential to sabotage. Automation is simply better in all those regards, and only a very small percentage of remarkably talented people will continue to pass the “Pepsi-test” of societal value as measured by those who actually make decisions.
It’s Technically Easy to Use Drones to Bypass Law Enforcement
State force has always depended on armed and entrenched elites with questionable moral traits. Recently we have seen how the behavior of police forces, in the United States, comes increasingly under scrutiny. The behavior of the police constitutes evidence for the problem of the state – we pretend that the state serves our democratically determined interests but we can see, as plain as the light of day, that the state agenda is a pretty narrow one.
There is a great demand for constraining the actions of law enforcement forces, especially when they victimize people. Every innocent civilian shot dead in some street, in the US or anywhere else, will reverberate in gnawing hunger to hold the force apparatus of the state accountable. Accountability will be ensured for a while with camera drones, but that phase won’t last long. It’s technically easy to mount retaliatory means on drones, or to use drones to bypass the enforcement net that tries to constrain the behavior of people (think for example of automatic and anonymous delivery of illegal goods by drone).
The vast majority of people still thinks that they have been served a fair deal in terms of how the state operates – the Mussolini maxim, “the trains run on time, the supermarket shelves are full.” Most people conclude that as long as they are fed, comfortable and relatively safe, they should not leave Big Government and Big Business alone.
That will end. A pervasive ecology of drones will allow us to see more and act upon the knowledge gathered, and it will radically reduce the ability of the state to arbitrarily project force to secure its interests. Private citizens will watch and, based on what they see, they will make their own judgment calls, using their own sense of right and wrong, weighing their own needs and projecting whatever force they have at their disposal – with the click of a button.
And all this will start happening a lot sooner than most people assume. The next few decades may not be very easy.
Images from Shutterstock.